Simon Rawnsley has a lot to show for in his seven seasons in the NPSL. The biggest accomplishments have to be two national semifinal appearances, two NPSL Golden Boot awards, and multiple National Player of the Week honors.
The Bradford, England native proved to be one of the most prolific strikers in NPSL history, serving as the league’s top scorer in both 2015 and 2016. Rawnsley’s success was not unexpected as he brought loads of experience with him. He played at the University of Southern Indiana before beginning an indoor career with the Evansville Crush. Rawnsley also played for Bradford City, Halifax Town, Bradford Park Avenue, and Kendal Town in the United Kingdom.
Rawnsley spent six seasons in Oakland with CD Aguiluchos USA, leading a talented team to unprecedented success in the West Region.
“As an Aguiluchos team, we felt we were a good side,” Rawnsley said. “We felt we had good players and we were very competitive in our training sessions and our games. We bonded and got to know each other pretty well off the field. I think the team chemistry helped and we always felt like the underdog. We felt that when people came to us in Oakland that it was pretty intimidating.”
Rawnsley also spent one season with expansion side San Ramon FC.
CDA made it to two national semifinals and won a number of conference and regional titles. Rawnsley was a big part of that success, but he was also joined by a number of talented teammates that had experience at the Division I collegiate, professional, and international levels. Rawnsley was quick to praise the accomplishments and talent of Ross Middlemiss, Ricardo Guerra, and Ahmad Hatifie.
“Ross was great to play with,” Rawnsley said. “His professionalism, attitude, work rate, and quality on and off the ball made him an asset for our side. Ricardo was our captain and leader and he recently was with the Oakland Roots. He was consistent, an excellent teammate who always gave his all. Ahmad was an Afghanistan international and a tall, professional, positive presence that was good on the ball, a great passer, and had good vision. ”
Rawnsley pointed out that, despite the immense talent, CDA was still a team without egos.
“We had that underdog mentality and that got us far those first few years,” Rawnsley said. “Making the final four and going to play the New York Cosmos B team was amazing. Even though the result wasn’t what we wanted, it was still a great experience to get to travel and go play against that team and those standards of players. Same again when we made the final four and got to go to Connecticut and play at Yale University. Those are places that you don’t get to go to normally, places you wouldn’t normally see. Because of the league, we were able to travel and see the country. ”
Rawnsley enjoyed his time in the league and was appreciative of the benefits it provided for veteran players.
“When I first came to the Bay area, I was looking to play at the highest level I could,” Rawnsley said. “I played in a league in San Francisco and got the Golden Boot and 30 goals that season. I was looking for something higher and someone said to try the NPSL. They said it was a stepping stone to the pros. People were getting looked at and people were getting signed. That was a big appeal. It’s great to play at a competitive level with players that have been at a high level in Division I, played abroad, professionally, and internationally. To have them in the league brought up the standard. It was good to be playing at that high standard.”
Today Rawnsley serves as the Foundations Director for Indy Premier Soccer Club in Indianapolis, Indiana. The club is one of the largest clubs in the entire state.
“For me now, it’s all about giving it back to the next generation and bringing through high-level players,” Rawnsley said. “Because when I started coaching that was one thing I didn’t expect to get from coaching, the satisfaction, the reward of players improving and growing their love of the game through me. I’m trying to be an inspiration to these players, a good role model, providing them a foundation to build from.”
Rawnsley will also be remembered for the goals he scored and the wins he collected. But today he’s leaving a different kind of legacy in Indiana, using his years of experience to develop and grow young players. It should come as no surprise that fans and supporters voted him #10 in the Global Scarves All-Time Top 10. It’s a worthy honor for an impressive player and an even more impressive person.
Photos Courtesy of Michelle Allen/Portland Spartans FC, Gamma Productions, and Simon Rawnsley