Forward Madison FC has re-signed midfielder Eric Leonard for its 2020 season, the club announced Tuesday.
Leonard, 24, made a significant impression in his first season as a professional, earning a starting spot in defensive midfield and playing in all of the Flamingos’ USL League One games.
According to head coach Daryl Shore, Leonard’s return spells good news for FMFC’s defensive solidity. Shore said in an interview at the end of the season that Leonard was one player that exceeded expectations.
“He was a player that came into our invite tryouts, and we signed him right out of our invite tryouts,” Shore said. “He wasn’t highly touted I guess is the way to put it. But I think he’s probably the one guy that played a lot of games and played a couple of different positions for us that we’re really pleased with his performance.”
Shore also called Leonard a “warrior” when he stepped up at center back when Wyatt Omsburg was recalled to Minnesota United.
Leonard, who grew up in Palatine, Ill., captained Butler University before joining Nerang Soccer Club in Australia in 2018. Dubbed the “American Import” upon his arrival in Australia, Leonard made an immediate impact in the Outback, earning the Gold Coast Premier League Player of the Year award.
Upon his return to the United States, Leonard won a spot on Forward’s inaugural roster. During his first year, Leonard may not have scored a goal, but he provided the Flamingos’ defensive backbone: Forward Madison averaged 1.95 points per game when Leonard started at defensive midfield.
For Leonard, his second season with Forward Madison represents a chance to take more of a leadership role and prove 2019’s successes didn’t come by accident.
“Any pro player can come in and have a stellar year and do well, but for me it’s not about the first year, it’s about [showing I] can be consistent,” Leonard said. “This community has become a family to me, so I’m really excited to be back on the team.”