Greenville Triumph are the champions of USL League 1 in their second season as a franchise. After finishing as finalist in their inaugural season, the team was at the top of the table from start to finish in the 2020 season. The squad is led by head coach John Harkes, former US Men’s National team captain who grew up playing for EDP club Kearny Thistle, and assistant coach Alex Blackburn, who joined the club after coaching at Monmouth University, and in EDP with Ocean United SA, Wall SC, and Peninsula SC.
A key to the team's success was USL League 1 back to back Golden Glove winner Dallas Jaye, who has thrived under the tutelage of Blackburn. In the clubs first season, Jaye had a .78 goals-against average, and a league-leading 13 clean sheets. In the 2020 season, Jaye was once again the league's top keeper, and kept 9 clean sheets in 14 games, and conceded just 8 goals during the season.
Jaye is not the first keeper to thrive under Blackburn’s coaching. Eric Klenofsky, who grew up playing for EDP club TSF Academy, played for Blackburn at Monmouth University. In Klenofsky’s first two seasons, he led NCAA Division 1 in goals-against average with a .22 his freshman year and .48 his sophomore year. Klenofsky is now a member of Toronto FC. Another one of Blackburn’s former keepers recently got their first MLS start, with Bobby Edwards starting for FC Cincinnati on October 14, 2020. Edwards, who grew up playing for EDP club Parsippany SC and also played for Jersey United (now Steel United) in the EDP U23 League, played for Blackburn at Monmouth University.
Klenofsky stated, “Blackburn has and will continue to be instrumental in my growth as a goalkeeper and a person. He changed how I looked at the position in a lot of ways and is at one of the best clubs in the USL because he’s earned it. I can’t say enough good things about him, the game needs more Alex Blackburns.”
Blackburn got his coaching start with Monmouth University after a successful playing career. After sitting behind current Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, Blackburn would take over as starter for the Monmouth Hawks, leading them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament his junior year. During his career, he amassed 23 clean sheets, had 26 wins, and was named All-NEC first team in his senior year. Returning as an assistant coach and keeper coach, not only did Blackburn help Klenofsky and Edwards reach pro careers, but has also trained Meredith during his ongoing 9 year professional career, in which he has played for Seattle Sounders, San Jose Earthquakes, and now the Vancouver Whitecaps.
During his time with Monmouth, Blackburn served as a head coach at Ocean United SA, Wall SC, and Peninsula SC, which all participated in EDP Leagues and tournaments. During his time with these clubs, it gave him the opportunity to have teams of his own, and implement some of his own coaching techniques and philosophies, which he brought with him to Greenville.
Blackburn commented: ”My time coaching in New Jersey was invaluable to my growth as a coach. Being able to navigate the different challenges between the youth and college games were great learning experiences. I am extremely proud of the group of keepers I have gotten to work with, and all of those that have reached the professional level. I look forward to watching all of them continue to develop, and we all stay in contact to help each other with these experiences.”