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Irish In The Pros: Recapping The 2016 Season

Jan. 18, 2017

by Tony Jones

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — With Brandon Aubrey officially joining the professional soccer ranks last week after being chosen in the first round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC, the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team added another alumnus to its growing pro history. Aubrey was the 27th MLS SuperDraft pick all-time for the Irish, with all players selected having played under the tutelage of head coach Bobby Clark.

In 2016 alone, 12 former Notre Dame standouts suited up with either MLS first teams, an MLS affiliate side, and in one case a club that is joining the top tier of United States professional soccer as an expansion team in 2017. Now that the new MLS calendar has begun with the completion of the annual entry draft, here is a final look at how Notre Dame alums fared in professional soccer last season.

Sporting KC defender Matt BeslerSporting KC defender Matt Besler

Matt Besler (’09) earned his fifth career MLS All-Star Game selection at Sporting Kansas City in 2016, although he was forced to miss the appearance due to injury. Besler returned to the Sporting KC lineup after the All-Star break and helped guide the club to the number five seed in the Western Conference in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Besler, named to the MLS Team of the Week on Oct. 17, finished with one goal and one assist over his 18 match appearances (17 starts) in the regular season with Sporting KC, contributing to five team clean sheets. He played the full 90 minutes in a narrow 1-0 defeat against the eventual league champion Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Knockout Round on Oct. 28. Besler also earned 10 international caps (nine starts) with the United States Men’s National Team in 2016, scoring his first career international goal against St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Sept. 2 in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match.

Nick Besler (’15) spent the majority of his second professional season on loan to the USL’s Portland Timbers 2. Besler made 24 match appearances for T2 in 2016, connecting on six total shot attempts from the midfield for T2 during the year. Besler scored his first career USL goal against the Swope Park Rangers on March 26.

Jeb Brovsky (’11) earned 26 starts for Minnesota United FC of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in its combined spring and fall seasons before tearing his left ACL in late October. Brovsky, a five-year MLS veteran, attempted seven shots and added one assist in for Minnesota United in 2016, the club’s final NASL season before officially making the leap to MLS in 2017.

Vince Cicciarelli (’15) made 23 match appearances for the USL’s Saint Louis FC (Chicago Fire affiliate) in 2016, ranking second on the club with five 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 added goals against the Oklahoma City Energy FC on April 9, the Tulsa Roughnecks FC on June 11 and the Swope Park Rangers on Aug. 21.

Bilal Duckett (’11) completed his second season with the USL’s Charlotte Independence (Colorado Rapids affiliate) in 2016, playing in 29 regular season matches while making one postseason start as a defender. Duckett notched a pair of assists in back-to-back matches against the Harrisburg City Islanders (April 2) and FC Cincinnati (April 9), and contributed to 10 team clean sheets during the Independence regular season.

Max Lachowecki (’15) completed his rookie season in the Real Salt Lake organization on a season-long loan with the Real Monarchs of the USL. Lachowecki played in 26 matches with the Monarchs, logging four official shot attempts while helping secure nine team shutouts from the back line in his debut professional campaign.

Real Salt Lake defender Aaron MaundReal Salt Lake defender Aaron Maund

Aaron Maund (’12) completed his fourth MLS season with Western Conference number six seed Real Salt Lake, but ultimately missed the MLS Cup Playoffs due to injury. Maund, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week on April 4 and July 18, presided over three team shutouts for Real Salt Lake and logged 20 total starts prior to being injured in August. Maund recently signed a contract extension with Real Salt Lake in December.

Luke Mishu (’14) announced his retirement from professional soccer in December, following his second season with the D.C. United franchise that was highlighted by seven match appearances (five starts) for the Eastern Conference fourth seed in 2016. Mishu also appeared in nine matches with the Richmond Kickers of the USL, helping guide the team to four clean sheets.

Justin Morrow (’10) reached the final of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs with Toronto FC during his seventh MLS season. Morrow, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week on July 11, scored a career-high five goals and added four assists from the back line during 31 regular starts for Toronto FC in 2016. He also played a key role in nine regular season clean sheets for the number three seed in the Eastern Conference, adding one assist as part of six postseason starts before falling in the league championship match to the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 10.

Absolute Insanity. #TFCLive

— Toronto FC (@torontofc) December 1, 2016

Dillon Powers (’13) closed his fourth regular season with the Western Conference’s number two seed Colorado Rapids, who reached the conference championship round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Powers played in 29 matches (24 starts) for the Rapids during the regular season, logging one goal and four assists from the midfield. Powers made three postseason appearances (two starts) for Colorado before the club bowed out to eventual MLS Cup champion Seattle in December.

Harrison Shipp (’14) reached the MLS Cup Playoffs in his first season with the Eastern Conference fifth seed Montreal Impact after being acquired from the Chicago Fire in the preseason. Shipp scored two goals and added three assists during his 27 regular season match appearances (20 starts) with the Impact in 2016, and saw action in two playoff contests. Shipp was traded to the reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders in December.

Michael Thomas (’10) completed his second season with the Oklahoma City Energy FC of the USL (FC Dallas affiliate) in 2016 after previously playing professionally in Sweden and spending two years in the MLS. Thomas started 28 regular season matches and added two playoff starts for Oklahoma City, scoring four goals while chipping in four assists. Thomas added the primary assist on the first Oklahoma City goal of a 3-2 playoff victory over Rio Grande Valley FC on Oct. 1.

Elsewhere in professional soccer, forward Ryan Finley (’13) split time between Ôngelholms FF of the Swedish Superettan and Næstved BK of the Danish 1st Division. Finley, an MLS and USL veteran, connected on four goals in 15 appearances with Ôngelholms FF, finding the back of the net against Ã-rgryte (April 11), Frej (April 23) and twice scoring against Ljungskile (May 28). Bright Dike (’09) saw time with FC Amkar Perm of the Russian Premier League that completed its domestic schedule last May. Dike played in four matches as a striker for FC Amkar Perm, which finished 11th in the Russian Premier League table with 31 points.


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.