After netting two first-half goals in USL League One’s Central Valley Fuego FC’s 4-1 win over USL Championship’s El Paso Locomotive in the Second Round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, Villyan Bijev has been voted TheCup.us Player of the Round.
It was very much a two-man race for the award as Bijev narrowly edged out 15-year-old Marcus Lee who led California United Strikers to a 5-0 win over San Fernando Valley FC.
The award is voted on by TheCup.us staff, a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters and select backers (those that pledge $10 or more) of TheCup.us’ Patreon team.
Bijev began the scoring in the fourth minute, chipping El Paso’s keeper from 20 yards to give Central Valley the lead moments into the match.
Then, 40 minutes later, Bijev completed his brace and gave Central Valley the 3-0 lead.
After receiving the ball down the left channel, Bijev cut into the penalty area while avoiding two defenders before unleashing a right-footed strike that easily beat the El Paso keeper.
Bijev continued his strong run of form and played the role of provider in the 62nd minute. Bijev took a corner kick from the left wing and delivered a perfect ball to the far post where Christian Chaney headed it past the diving keeper to make it 4-0. He was subbed off in the 70th minute with a comfortable four-goal lead.
Bijev signing with the Fuego was a homecoming for the Bulgarian-born Fresno, Calif.-native. He has been well-traveled over the years, representing the United States and Bulgaria at the youth international level.
He began his professional soccer journey by signing with Liverpool FC as a teenager. He would immediately be sent out on loan with clubs in Germany (Fortuna Dusseldorf) and Norway (IK Start) and never saw the field for the Reds. After being released by Liverpool, Bijev spent time with two different Bulgarian clubs before returning to the United States to play for Portland Timbers 2 (USL). Later, he signed with the Sacramento Republic where he spent three seasons before joining the Oklahoma City Energy for the 2021 USL Championship campaign. However, when the club announced it was going on hiatus, he returned home to play with the Central Valley Fuego.
With the win over El Paso, the Fuego advance to Round 3 where they will take on another USL Championship side, this time on the road as they face Bijev’s old club, the Sacramento Republic FC.
— USL League One (@USLLeagueOne) April 7, 2022