June 24, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A byproduct of the success that has emanated from the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer program in the past 15 seasons has been the continued pursuits of players in the professional ranks. Since 2004, a total of 26 players with Irish ties have been selected in the annual MLS SuperDraft, with 20 such choices occurring within the first two rounds of the MLS entry draft.
With a strong base of 11 players that entered 2016 competing for MLS or affiliated United Soccer League (USL) clubs, Notre Dame is also represented in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the Russian Premier League and the Superettan, the highest men’s professional soccer league in Sweden.
Here is an update on Notre Dame professional players both domestic and abroad thus far in the 2016 season.
USMNT and Sporting KC defender Matt Besler (’09)
Matt Besler (’09) recently reached the semifinal stage of the 2016 Copa AmÃƒÆ’Â©rica Centenario with the United States Men’s National Team earlier in June. Besler made one match start during the tournament, a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Ecuador on June 16, for his fifth USMNT Cap of 2016 and 34th career international appearance. Stateside in the MLS with Sporting KC Besler has made 10 starts in between national team commitments, logging one assist against the LA Galaxy in a 1-1 draw on May 1. Sporting KC has notched a pair of clean sheets during Besler starts this season, and sits in fifth place in the Western Conference with 21 points as of June 24.
Nick Besler (’15) appears on the active Portland Timbers roster in his second year with the organization after spending the majority of his first two professional seasons on loan to the USL’s Portland Timbers 2. Besler made 13 match appearances for T2 in 2016, most recently playing the full 90 minutes against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on June 19. Besler connected on three total shot attempts from the midfield for T2 this season, including his first career USL goal against the Swope Park Rangers on March 26.
Jeb Brovsky (’11) is in his first season with Minnesota United FC of the NASL after spending the previous five years in the MLS. Brovsky has started eight matches on the Minnesota United FC back line as of June 24, registering four shot attempts while contributing to four clean sheets. Minnesota United FC has been awarded expansion entry into the MLS, and plans to join the league by 2018.
22′ GOAL CICCIARELLI off a corner kick! pic.twitter.com/1B7Ei3u3Ir
— Saint Louis FC (@SaintLouisFC) April 10, 2016
Vince Cicciarelli (’15) has settled in as a member of the USL’s Saint Louis FC (Chicago Fire affiliate) after originally being drafted by the Columbus Crew in the third round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. Cicciarelli has made 10 match appearances for Saint Louis FC as of June 24, ranking second on the club with four goals. Following a two-goal effort against Orange County Blue FC on April 2, Cicciarelli was recognized as the USL Player of the Week that was announced on April 5. He has added goals against the Oklahoma City Energy FC on April 9 and the Tulsa Roughnecks FC on June 11 during the current campaign.
Bright Dike (’09) played his first season with FC Amkar Perm of the Russian Premier League that completed its domestic schedule in May. Dike saw action in four matches as a striker for FC Amkar Perm, which finished 11th in the Russian Premier League table with 31 points.
Bilal Duckett (’11) returned for his second season with the Charlotte Independence (Colorado Rapids affiliate) of the USL in 2016, and has appeared in 13 games as a defender as of June 24. Duckett logged a pair of assists in back-to-back matches against the Harrisburg City Islanders (April 2) and FC Cincinnati (April 9), and has contributed to four team clean sheets this season.
Ryan Finley (’13) joined ÃƒÆ’”ngelholms FF in the Superettan (Swedish Premier League) for 2016, and has made 11 match appearances as of June 24. Finley, an MLS and USL veteran, has connected on four goals, finding the back of the net against ÃƒÆ’-rgryte (April 11), Frej (April 23) and twice scoring against Ljungskile (May 28).
Max Lachowecki (’15) was drafted 25th overall by Real Salt Lake in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and has spent the balance of the season on loan with the Real Monarchs of the USL. Lachowecki has competed in 13 matches on the back line with the Monarchs in his rookie campaign as of June 24, contributing to four team shutouts.
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) April 10, 2016
Aaron Maund (’12) is in his fourth season with Real Salt Lake of the MLS, and has notched 13 starts at defender as of June 24. Maund, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week on April 4, has presided over two team shutouts for Real Salt Lake, which sits in third place in the Western Conference with 27 points in 2016.
Luke Mishu (’14) appears on the active D.C. United roster in his second season with the franchise after two prior stints on loan with the Richmond Kickers of the USL. Mishu saw 84 minutes of playing time in his only recorded match of 2016, a 1-1 draw, in the USL against the New York Red Bulls II on May 14.
Justin Morrow (’10) is in the midst of his seventh season in the MLS, back for his third year with Toronto FC. Morrow has appeared in 14 matches as a defender for Toronto FC as of June 24, which has included five clean sheets for the current fifth place squad (19 points) in the Eastern Conference.
Dillon Powers (’13) is in his fourth season with the Colorado Rapids of the MLS, and has been a regular contributor in the Rapids midfield in 2016. Powers has played in 12 matches with eight starts as of June 24, notching a goal against D.C. United (March 20) and an assist against the Chicago Fire (June 18) for the top team in the Western Conference and overall MLS standings (32 points).
Harrison Shipp (’14) was sent to the Montreal Impact via a February trade with the Chicago Fire, and is currently competing in his first MLS season north of the border. Shipp has seen the pitch in 14 matches (10 starts) for Montreal as of June 24, chipping in three total assists against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (March 6), New York Red Bulls (March 12) and Colorado Rapids (April 30) for the fourth place Impact in the Eastern Conference (20 points).
Michael Thomas (’10) is in his second season with the Oklahoma City Energy FC of the USL (FC Dallas affiliate) after previously playing professionally in Sweden and spending two years in the MLS. Thomas has started 11 matches for Oklahoma City in 2016 as of June 24, scoring his first goal of the season on a season-high four shot attempts during his most recent appearance, a victory at the Swope Park Rangers (June 18).
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.