Windsor, Colo. – Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC has announced their end-of-year team awards for their inaugural 2022 USL League One season.
Head Coach Eamon Zayed and Assistant Coach Kevin Sawchak submitted their nominees for each award and left the final decision up to a fan vote.
Arthur Rogers won the team’s Most Valuable Player. After being nominated for USL League One MVP, winning USL League One Defender of the Year and being honored as part of the 2022 USL League One All-League First Team, this was an easy choice for fans. Rogers broke the USL single-season record for chances created with 82. The Londoner started in all 30 League One matches for the Hailstorm this year, playing a team-leading 2,665 minutes.
Irvin Parra and Brecc Evans were the other players nominated by the coaching staff for MVP consideration.
Destan Norman was honored as the team’s Most Improved Player. The Fort Collins native made the team after participating in the open tryouts. He was then signed to a trial and eventually worked his way into 14 starts and 24 appearances. Norman won 16 tackles, made 22 clearances and completed 293 successful passes. He scored his first professional goal in the waning minutes of the team’s final match, a must-win against FC Tucson. His tally proved to be the game-winner, extending the team’s playoff hopes into the final week of the season.
Johan Peñaranda and Trevor Amann were the other players up for Most Improved.
Irvin Parra’s worldie goal, which was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top Ten at number two, was selected as the Goal of the Year. The goal came in the Hailstorm’s first-ever home match, playing against North Carolina FC at Jackson Stadium on the University of Northern Colorado campus. It became the first home goal in Hailstorm history. The tally was nominated for League One Goal of the Week that week but didn’t capture the fan vote in the way it has now.
The other goals that stood out to the coaches for nomination were: Jerry Desdunes’ stoppage time goal against the USL Championship Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the Open Cup, which was the first-ever goal in club history; Rob Cornwall’s volley strike that won the game against Real Salt Lake in the Open Cup; and Danny Robles incredibly skillful goal at home against Chattanooga.
Johan Peñaranda won Save of the Year for his off-the-bench save against Charlotte. Less than ten minutes after Thomas Olsen was sent off for accumulating two yellow cards, Peñaranda made a close-range save, stopping a laser of a headed shot from a Charlotte player to keep the 3-1 lead and eventually win the game.
Other saves that the coaches nominated for Save of the Year were: a save from Peñaranda that won Save of the Week and helped the team beat Greenville when they were at the top of the table; a save from Thomas Olsen against Greenville earlier in the season that was nominated for Save of the Week; and Olsen’s heroic save in the last match of the season against Tucson that won Save of the Week and helped keep the playoff dream alive.
The Moment of the Year was unanimously awarded to the Open Cup win over Real Salt Lake. In just the fourth match in the team’s existence, the Hailstorm traveled to Rio Tinto Stadium to face an MLS side. In a David-and-Goliath-esque feat, Northern Colorado won in regulation time. Cornwall scored the only goal of the match. Olsen impressively kept a clean sheet. All of this was done with no assistant coaches on the bench. Sawchak and Owain Fon Williams had both received red cards in the previous Open Cup match. The team celebrated vivaciously on the field and shared the special moment with the small group of Hailstorm fans who had made the trip.
The other Moment of the Year contenders were: the initial Open Cup win over the Switchbacks; the first home match in Hailstorm history; and Norman’s fairytale first professional goal in his native Northern Colorado.
Best Goal Celebration was awarded to Brecc Evans, who celebrated all four of his goals during the season with what looked to be a blood-curdling scream. Evans was clearly the most consistent and visceral in his goal celebrations.
Other celebrations that were nominated were: Cornwall’s celebration at Salt Lake with his hands held to his ears; Marky Hernandez’s celebration of his own goals, and his teammates’ goals, in which he jumped up into their arms to be held for a moment; and Wolfgang Prentice’s rendition of a robot dance.
The award for Best Dressed was given to Lachlan McLean. McLean always dressed to impress ahead of matches, dressing more formally than other members of the team on many occasions.
The future home of Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC, 118-acre Future Legends Complex, will feature 6,500-seat TicketSmarter Stadium, 2,500-seat Future Legends Field, multiple baseball diamonds, multi-purpose fields, an indoor sports arena, lodging, and retail; and will host guests for major sports leagues, tournaments, events and more.