Voting is live for the National XI awards as Laredo Heat SC captain and center back Lewis Wilson and goalkeeper Connor Durant are representing the top defense in the NPSL. Voting is live through the end of the day Wednesday, Aug. 3 at npsl.com/national-xi-voting as Durant and Wilson are vying for both national honors and the Golden Ball MVP award.
The No. 1 defense in the National Premier Soccer League has a chance to be represented in the National XI awards this week as Laredo Heat SC captain and center back Lewis Wilson and goalkeeper Connor Durant are nominated after being announced Friday as members of the South Region XI team.
“I’m just really happy both of them are getting the recognition they deserve,” Heat head coach John Powell said. “They should have been two of the most obvious selections, but when things are open to a public vote you never know. They were both nothing short of outstanding all summer and belong on that All-Region team.”
Postseason awards in the NPSL are determined by fan vote. Durant and Wilson earned the regional distinction after being named last week to the Conference XI team for the Lone Star Conference. Region XI members advance as nominees for the National XI awards.
Voting for the national awards is live through the end of the day Wednesday, Aug. 3 at npsl.com/national-xi-voting as Durant and Wilson are vying for both national honors and the Golden Ball award for the most valuable player.
“I’m biased, but I say they both will be there again,” Powell said. “We just need to keep encouraging people to go out and vote and do everything they can to make sure those two guys get on the list, because they belong there without a doubt.”
Durant and Wilson led Laredo to a 10-2-3 record this season as they anchored the top defense in the 95-team NPSL. The Heat won both the regular season and postseason championships in the Lone Star Conference and advanced to the regional semifinals.
Playing every minute of the Heat’s 15 matches, Durant’s nine clean sheets was more than the eight total goals allowed this season. Laredo’s 0.57 average goals allowed will finish as the best in the league this season regardless of what happens between the final four teams. The Tulsa Athletic are the closest competitor at 0.69 goals per match.
Despite falling in the regional semifinals, the Heat never allowed a goal in the postseason. They beat the Irving FC in a shootout after a scoreless draw, won 3-0 over the Corinthians FC of San Antonio and fell on penalty kicks in Tulsa following a scoreless draw. The 330 scoreless minutes of the postseason was part of a stretch of 467 scoreless minutes plus added time to close out the season.
Durant, Wilson and the Heat allowed more than one goal only once all season. That occurred in a 3-1 loss at Austin and two of the goals were scored off counter attacks in added time as Laredo was pushing aggressively first for the go-ahead goal and then the equalizer.
Along with the shutouts and average goals allowed, Durant gained attention throughout the season for his ability to disrupt set pieces. Almost every corner kick and free kick sent into the box was taken out of the air by Durant as he put his skills as a former American football receiver to good use catching the ball at its highest point.
“I keep saying it and will probably never stop saying it that Connor will be a pro after he finishes his last year at Colorado Mesa,” Powell said. “To have someone like that in goal brings a confidence to your back line and your team. You can never overstate the importance of having someone reliable in goal, and Connor was fantastic all summer long.”
Wilson was an automatic nominee in the conference awards after being named to the NPSL Team of the Month for May. Along with routinely sacrificing his body and blocking shots to aid the defensive effort, he also was a steady contributor offensively with three header goals off set pieces.
Durant joined Wilson on the score sheet by recording an assist this season, and Wilson had a pair of assists. Both players were also crucial to the breakout efforts all season to push the offense forward.
"I’m convinced Lewis Wilson is the best center back in the country. He had a phenomenal summer on the pitch, and what he also did off the pitch as the captain was irreplaceable,” Powell said. “He got the boys together. He has a great personality to where all the boys were drawn to him. They also follow his example on the pitch. He left it all out there for us every single time he played. When you have a leader like that, it’s easy to hold the rest of the boys accountable. There wasn’t a bigger impact on the squad than what Lewis did for us.”
Heat forward Kristian Colaci was also a Conference XI honoree this season as he led the team with nine goals and added two assists.
Visit laredoheatsc.com and follow @laredoheatsc on social media to stay up to date on the latest news. Any youth players interested in joining the academy can visit laredoheatscyouth.com for more information.