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USL Review: Indy Eleven signs former Chicago Fire homegrown Drew Conner

Also in USL news and notes, longtime NCFC midfielder Austin da Luz will retire.

In this 2017 file photo, former Chicago Fire midfielder Drew Conner (18) advances the ball against the Portland Timbers in the first half at Providence Park. (Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports)

A former Major League Soccer homegrown player has signed with a USL Championship side after a short stint abroad.

Drew Conner, who came up in the Chicago Fire’s academy, signed with Indy Eleven earlier this week. Conner’s contract with Indy is good through the remainder of the 2019 season, according to the club. He is expected to be available for selection this weekend.

“To be a part of a club that has established a winning culture, ambitious goals and one of the best fan bases in the country is something I’m truly excited and grateful for,” Conner said in a statement. “I’m ready to contribute in any way possible to help bring a trophy to Indianapolis.”

Conner, 25, played in the Fire’s academy from 2008 through 2012, then played college soccer at Wisconsin before signing a homegrown deal with the MLS club in 2015. The Fire loaned him to Saint Louis FC for the 2016 season, where he played in 12 games. In 2017 and 2018, he played in 34 games with the Fire, typically as a central midfielder or at right back.

The Fire released Conner at the end of the 2018 season and he then joined Czech club SC Znojmo, where he had one assist in eight appearances.

“We are excited to add such a dynamic, versatile player to our roster at this stage of the season,” Indy head coach Martin Rennie said in a statement. “He will be a very valuable asset to our team on the field and in our community.”

In addition to this signing, Indy “mutually agreed” to terminate the contract of 37-year-old South Korean midfielder Do-heon Kim.

Things to know

  • A postponed game between El Paso Locomotive FC and Portland Timbers 2 will now be played Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 9 p.m. ET at Southwest University Park. The game was originally set for Aug. 3, but was postponed after a man shot and killed 22 people in an El Paso Walmart earlier that day.
  • Austin da Luz, one of the most decorated players in North Carolina FC’s history, announced this week he will retire at the end of the 2019 season. da Luz, 31, ranks in the top 10 for the club in games played, minutes, goals and assists across all contests. After playing college ball at Wake Forest, where he helped the Demon Deacons win the College Cup in 2007, he was drafted 14th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls. In addition to playing eight seasons with North Carolina FC and one with Orlando City’s USL side, he appeared in 23 MLS games, scoring one goal and adding three assists during his time with the Red Bulls and D.C. United. In addition to helping NCFC go on deep U.S. Open Cup runs, he also founded “Playing for Pride,” a global fundraiser to benefit the Human Rights Campaign.
  • Reading United head coach Alan McCann was named USL League Two Coach of the Year for the second straight season. Reading went 10-1-3, won the Eastern Conference and appeared in the league’s final.

Transactions

  • Austin Bold FC announced Monday it acquired centerback Gustavo Rissi on loan from Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, a side in Brazil’s top division, through the remainder of the 2019 season. Rissi, 21, came up in the Fluminense FC academy and as a youngster featured for the Brazilian national team at the U-15 and U-16 levels.
  • North Carolina FC announced Wednesday the addition of right back Colton Storm, a former UNC standout who will remain with the club through the end of the 2019 season. Storm, 25, was drafted 14th overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting KC. He never appeared in a match with the club, but was a mainstay at fullback for two seasons with SKC’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers. Storm played in 53 games for the Rangers, tallying three goals and eight assists.
  • Sacramento Republic FC announced Monday it acquired forward Thomas Enevoldsen from Indy Eleven. Enevoldsen’s deal is through the remainder of the 2019 season with a club option for 2020. In 20 appearances with Indy this season, the Danish forward netted five goals and assisted on two others. In 2018, the 32-year-old finished second in the USL’s Golden Boot Race, scoring 20 goals for Orange County SC.
  • On Tuesday, Saint Louis FC announced it had made a deal with Sacramento Republic FC, acquiring Tyler Blackwood for the remainder of the 2019 season. Blackwood, 28, scored once in 13 appearances with Sacramento this year. Last season, he had eight goals and three assists in 34 games with the Swope Park Rangers.
  • Indy Eleven announced Monday it signed a pair of South American forwards, Cristian Novoa and Gabriel Rodrigues, for the remainder of the 2019 season. Novoa, 28, hails from Venezuela and previously played in Spain and Bolivia. Rodrigues, 23, is from Brazil and most recently played for clubs in his native country and Japan.

They said it

ATL UTD 2 coach Stephen Glass on 5-1 loss to Louisville City: “We paid a heavy price for the inability to defend set pieces. Restricting a good team to one goal from open play should set us up to be more competitive, but when you give good teams cheap goals it’s always going to be difficult.”

Nashville SC defender Jimmy Ockford on goalkeeper Matt Pickens: “Having him behind, he’s been around the league. Obviously, he’s played in a lot of games in his professional career, and he’s constantly guiding us, telling us what to do position-wise. He’s come up massive. He’s a huge part of why we have five clean sheets. Even today, making two, three big-time saves for us that is huge.”

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