USL coaches and media voted FC Cincinnati’s Forrest Lasso as its Defender of the Year, the league announced on Monday.
Lasso earned 48 percent of the vote, ahead of Louisville City FC’s Paco Craig (39 percent) and Pittsburgh’s Joe Greenspan (13 percent). Team management and a league-wide media panel representing every USL market voted on the award, according to a league media release.
Lasso led USL defenders with 223 clearances and 172 aerials won. He also finished second in blocked shots with 32. Lasso also earned USL First Team honors for the second straight season.
“It’s a special accolade for me personally,” Lasso said in the media release. “I think if you look at our backline, our defensive unit, our keepers, our holding mids, it took all of us. You ask anybody who plays the game, defending starts at the top, so even our 9s, 7s, 11s, they all did the job. But for me individually, it’s a special moment.
“It’s something when I first entered the league back in 2015, I saw the guys that won Defender of the Year and thought I can do that. So it’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind. But when it came to gameday, it was the last thing I was thinking about. I was trying to think about our team success and making sure the guys to the left and right were on the same page, which at the end of the day made my job a little bit better.”
The award is the first announced by the league this postseason. Alan Koch is a finalist for Coach of the Year, which the USL will announce on Tuesday. Emmanuel Ledesma is an MVP candidate, which the league will release on Wednesday.
Lasso logged the third-most minutes for FC Cincinnati. He won 74.3 percent of duels and 82.7 percent of aerial duels. He had 47 interceptions, 17 tackles and 88 possession recoveries.
“Forrest had achieved a high level of success in the league when we brought him to Cincinnati, and we’re so pleased to see how he raised his game to become one of our club’s foundations this season,” said club president and general manager Jeff Berding. “Game after game, he made highlight-reel defensive moves and shut down an opposing team. No matter who he played alongside, we counted on Forrest to be a big presence and he delivered. Adding in his dedication on the training pitch, as well as his commitments in the Cincinnati community, we are so proud Forrest has been recognized as the league’s top defender this season.”