TAMPA, Fla. – Evan Louro’s first season with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2020, while abbreviated, showed the potential for what could lie ahead.
After a 2021 campaign in which he recorded a league-high 14 shutouts, earned his first Championship Golden Glove, and played a key role in a record-setting shutout streak, the success the 25-year-old enjoyed while orchestrating the best defense in the league delivered on that promise.
Louro was named the USL Championship’s Goalkeeper of the Year on Friday, capping a standout campaign that saw him lead his side to the best record in the Championship this season and a place in the 2021 USL Championship Final this Sunday night against Orange County SC at Al Lang Stadium (8:30 p.m. ET | ESPN | ESPN Deportes | SiriusXM FC).
The South River, N.J. native’s numbers across 2021’s 32-game regular season almost exactly mirrored those he achieved over 2020’s 16-game regular season. Louro doubled his shutout total of seven and recorded 58 saves, twice as many as the 29 saves he made in 2020. Additionally, his save percentage on shots inside the penalty area rose to 65.5 percent, placing him in the top five among goalkeepers to record at least five shutouts in the Championship this season.
That was a testament to his consistency, and that of the Rowdies as a team. Tampa Bay allowed the fewest shots on target defensively of any team in the USL Championship during the 2021 regular season in part due to the outstanding resilience and organization the side exhibited game-in and game-out, but Louro’s ability to communicate and organize his back line also played a key role in Tampa Bay snuffing out danger before it required a save to be made.
“I always try to keep myself busy,” Louro said. “My job is not only making saves, it’s talking, it’s playing out of the back, it’s making sure our guys are tuned in. Just me doing that helps keep me tuned it. I’ll maybe have days where I don’t really have to do anything and then I’ll just have to do one thing and I need to be ready to that. That’s what comes with the job and I’m happy to do it.”
When those shots arrived, Louro was the man on the spot to ensure few found the back of the net. Louro posted a 0.74 goals-against average to claim the Golden Glove, recorded a 71.3 save percentage overall, and regularly produced crucial saves when the team needed them to either preserve a win or retain a shutout.
That was no truer than during the club’s Championship record-setting run in which the Rowdies went 891 minutes without conceding a goal midway through the campaign. Louro’s eight consecutive shutouts tied the league’s individual record as he racked up clean sheets in every game between August 13 and September 18, a run that saw the Rowdies go 7-0-1 and proved key to the side ending the season with the best record in the league.
“I grew up watching Manchester United and the thing that kept being mentioned about Peter Schmeichel, who at the time was the best in the world, was he would go three matches without making a save in a game and then when the time came, he’d make the right save,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “I think that’s just about focus. Evan is an intense person, and I think that’s what you need to be. I think the greatest thing with Evan is not just the shot stopping but when the pressure is coming, to be able to relieve pressure. I think he’s done that really well. The last two years when you look at his record, it says a lot about why he’s won this award.”
As he reaches the prime of his career, the promise the past two seasons have fulfilled leave Louro’s future prospects looking brighter than ever.
“This award is obviously a huge honor,” said Louro. “I just give credit to my teammates for making my job easy this year. But this award is something I’ll keep with me forever. No-one will ever be able to take this accomplishment away from me.”
He came up through the Red Bulls academy system. He joined the academy in 2008 and eventually helped the U16s win the U.S. Soccer Development Academy championship in 2012 thanks to an undefeated season. Louro continued to represent the Red Bulls while attending the University of Michigan by playing the club’s U23s in USL League Two. He also had a short stint with amateur side Detroit City FC in 2016 before signing an MLS Homegrown contract the following year.
Louro earned 56 percent of the ballot to claim the award, while Birmingham Legion FC’s Matt VanOekel finished second on 22 percent and Hartford Athletic’s Jeff Caldwell took third on 21 percent.
The 2021 USL Championship Awards were voted on by team technical staffs and executives and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL Championship market. Voting was conducted following the conclusion of the 2021 Championship regular season.