TAMPA, Fla. – Cristian Parano arrived in Texas looking to make a name for himself.
After a standout first season for San Antonio FC, the 20-year-old Argentine has shifted as smoothly into the spotlight as through an opposing defense.
Parano was named the 2019 USL Championship Young Player of the Year on Wednesday after a campaign that saw him record seven goals, six assists and 53 key passes as his ability to connect play through midfield and into the attacking third made him the brightest young player to watch in the league.
A graduate of the River Plate Academy in his native country, Parano arrived at San Antonio FC on trial last preseason after finding obstacles in his path to the professional ranks at home. Joining a club with a growing Academy program of its own, he quickly became one of the young starlets in SAFC’s lineup, making 24 starts in 32 appearances over his first season.
Parano opened his scoring account for SAFC on June 21 and quickly his game appeared to click into a higher gear. Over a three-game span in August he recorded five goals and two assists, twice earning Championship Player of the Week honors, while in September he was named the No. 2 selection in the USL’s 20 Under 20.
With his opening act in the Championship complete, the future for Parano appears bright.
Parano claimed 29 percent of the vote to win the award. Real Monarchs SLC’s Douglas Martinez finished second on 13 percent, while the Swope Park Rangers’ Felipe Hernandez finished third with 11 percent of the ballot. Eighteen players in total received votes for the award.
The 2019 USL Championship Awards were voted on by team management and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL Championship market. Voting was conducted following the conclusion of the 2019 Championship regular season.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Matt Pickens, Nashville SC
Defender of the Year: Joe Greenspan, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Coach of the Year: Rick Schantz, Phoenix Rising FC
Young Player of the Year: Cristian Parano, San Antonio FC
Most Valuable Player: November 21
2011: Luke Mulholland, Wilmington Hammerheads FC
2012: Jose Cuevas, Charleston Battery
2013: Nate Robinson, Richmond Kickers
2014: John McCarthy, Rochester Rhinos
2015: Kharlton Belmar, Portland Timbers 2
2016: Brandon Allen, New York Red Bulls II
2017: Chris Wehan, Reno 1868 FC
2018: Efrain Alvarez, LA Galaxy II
(Note: USL Championship Rookie of the Year, 2011-17)