Defensive Player of the Year | Bjarne Thiesen

Written by Michael Lewis

Someone mentioned Bjarne Thiesen’s name and Tom Bowen didn’t hesitate to wax poetic about the Long Island Rough Riders center back.

And rightfully so – for so many reasons.

“I truly believe he’s the best 1 v 1 defender that I’ve worked with,” the Rough Riders head coach said.

And that is the reason why Bowen was named the squad’s defensive player of the year for the 2022 USL League Two season.

Thiesen was a key component of the Riders’ march to the League Two final. He anchored a backline that allowed only 19 goals in as many matches on its march to the League Two final against the Ventura County Fusion. Long Island dropped a 2-1 decision in the championship game on Aug. 6.

“He’s just so difficult to get around,” Bowen said. “He reads the game so well. He’s good in the air. He’s a threat from set pieces and then on top of that when he has the ball, he’s just so calm and composed.”

The Kiel, Germany native was one of two Long Island players named to the League Two All-League team. Wessel Speel was the other Rough Rider to receive that honor.

“He never seems to be under any kind of panic or any kind of pressure no matter who you’re playing against,” Bowen said. “He always seems to be in control, calm and in the moment and makes the right decisions. He’s a coach’s dream. He became a leader for us. Another great lad off the field as well.

“I think he’s a future pro for sure. And I think any team in the country would be lucky to have him and would take him in a heartbeat.”

Right now, that lucky team is West Virginia University, where Thiesen patrols the backline this fall.

There were so many things about the 6-5, 170-lb. defender’s game that has impressed Bowen, including his tackles.

“He never has to make a slide tackle,” he said. “I don’t remember him spending any time on the ground, which is rare for a defender. He never seems to have to make a last-ditch tackle or on a slide tackle to recover because he always seems to be in the right spot at the right time.

“Sometimes last-ditch defending can look spectacular because it’s a last-minute block or a last-ditch tackle. It’s more of a compliment to him that he never puts himself in those positions. He reads the game so much better than everybody else.”


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