Oct. 26, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs get set to kick off on Oct. 26, the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer flag will be well represented during the championship tournament. Players from six of the 12 teams that qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs have Irish soccer ties, including one former MLS Cup champion.
Here is a look at how former Notre Dame soccer stars fared in 2016 with MLS and affiliate clubs on the eve of the postseason:
Matt Besler (’09) was named to the 2016 AT&T All-Star Fan XI on July 9, although the Sporting Kansas City and United States Men’s National Team star was forced to miss his fifth MLS All-Star Game 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 entering the MLS Cup Playoffs. Besler, named to the MLS Team of the Week on Oct. 17, has one goal and one assist over his 18 match appearances (17 starts) this season with Sporting KC, contributing to five team clean sheets. Besler has also earned seven caps with the USMNT 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, most recently closing the regular season with a 3-2 win over Arizona United SC on Sept. 24. Besler connected on six total shot attempts from the midfield for T2 during the year, scoring 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. Brovsky, a five-year MLS veteran, attempted seven shots and added one assist in 2016. Minnesota United FC has been awarded expansion entry into the MLS, and plans to join the league by 2018.
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 matches and making one playoff start at defender. Duckett logged 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 season.
Max Lachowecki (’15) spent his rookie season in the Real Salt Lake organization on 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.
Aaron Maund (’12) is in his fourth MLS season with Western Conference number six seed Real Salt Lake, but is currently out of the team’s lineup entering the MLS Cup Playoffs due to injury. Maund, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week on April 4 and July 18 earlier in 2016, presided over three team shutouts for Real Salt Lake and logged 20 total starts prior to being injured in August.
Luke Mishu (’14) is in his second season with the D.C. United franchise, earning a number of spot starts for the club entering the MLS Cup Playoffs. Mishu has made seven match appearances for the Eastern Conference fourth seed D.C. United (five starts) in 2016, most recently going the distance in the regular season finale against Orlando City FC on Oct. 23. Mishu also appeared in nine matches with the Richmond Kickers of the USL earlier this summer, helping guide the team to four clean sheets.
Justin Morrow (’10) is headed to the knockout round of the 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, has scored a career-high five goals and added four assists from the back line during 31 starts for Toronto FC thus far in 2016. He also played a key role in nine regular season clean sheets for the number three seed in the Eastern Conference.
Dillon Powers (’13) closed his fourth regular season with the Western Conference’s number two seed Colorado Rapids, who have already earned a berth to the conference semifinal round entering 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.
Harrison Shipp (’14) is headed to the MLS Cup Playoffs in his first season with the Eastern Conference fifth seed Montreal Impact after being acquired from the Chicago Fire in February. Shipp has scored two goals and added three assists during his 27 match appearances (20 starts) with the Impact in 2016, most recently starting the regular season finale against the New England Revolution on Oct. 23.
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.
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.