With the opening of the USL Championship season, and Major League Soccer entering it’s second week of action, I thought it was time for an update on the St. Louis Professional Soccer Players in MLS and USL Championship. It numbers sixteen with four playing in Major League Soccer – Tom Barlow in 2019 (Chaminade) and Connor Sparrow (Vianney) this year are the most recent to ascend to this level where they join Will Bruin (DeSmet) and Joe Willis (Chaminade). Of note for those who point to Jack Maher, drafted 2nd this year by Nashville FC, it was announced yesterday he has joined Charlotte Independce on loan. More below. In addition, Aedan Stanley has left Duke University to sign with the Portland Timbers 2 squad!
TOM BARLOW, New York Red Bulls (MLS)
Signed a contract with the New York Red Bulls in 2019. A 2018 MLS SuperDraft pick, he joined the First Team after scoring 18 goals in 34 games with New York Red Bulls II. He scored 8 for the first team and played 19 minutes last weekend in the teams opening game win over FC Cincinnati. NYRB Roster link
WILL BRUIN, Seattle Sounders
Bruin started four of his nine appearances in 2019, recording 428 minutes. He scored two goals and added one assist, with both goals coming in a 3-2 win over Toronto (April 13). Bruin tore his ACL in a training session in June and was forced to miss the rest of the season. He has been released to play but did not make it into the first match last week, in a game that saw Jordan Morris come on as a substitute and get two goals including the game-winner. It is Bruin’s tenth season and he has scored 70 goals in that period. Sounder’s Roster link
Nice report on Will’s hard work as he prepares for his 10th MLS season and return from his first significant injury
CONNOR SPARROW, Chicago Fire (MLS)
Sparrow signed with Chicago Fire with options for 2021-2022 season. Sparrow is a goalkeeper with experience on the USL level with Real Monarchs SLC from 2016-2018 (31 appearances) and Nashville SC in 2019 (9 appearances). A former third-string ‘keeper for RSL in 2017 after being acquired via the MLS Draft. Sparrow will be competing for the back-up spot behind starter Kenneth Kronholm in 2020.
JOE WILLIS, Nashville SC (MLS)
Joe was traded from the Houston Dynamo to Nashville in November for a left back Houston needed to replace DeMarcus Beasley. Willis ready Willis began his career at D.C. United as a backup to longtime keeper Bill Hamid, but shined in his chances to start in the nation’s capital. With Hamid away with the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team in May 2012, Willis filled in and excelled. He cemented his place in D.C. United lore when he was forced into action during the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs after Hamid was given a straight red card for a challenge on a breakaway against New York Red Bulls. Willis came in and stopped the subsequent penalty and went on to lead the team to an aggregate victory over D.C. United’s fiercest rival.
After Willis joined the Houston Dynamo, he won the starting job in 2016 and became a regular for the Dynamo throughout his five seasons. He started the inaugural match last weekend against Atlanta United. NFC lost 0-1, you may have read about this play Willis was involved in?
Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal has an MLS contract with Sporting KC but with their off-season signings, and not playing a minute in the MLS in 2019, it appears he’ll spend the early part of the season with SKCII and I have his details below.
St. Louis Professional Soccer Players the USL Championship
JOHN BERNER, Saint Louis FC
Berner was the 35th overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the Colorado Rapids. He made his professional debut for the Rapids in Major League Soccer on March 15, 2014 against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, eventually playing five games for the team. He was loaned to the Charlotte Independence in 2015 where he played for two years. He spent time with Phoenix Rising and OK City Energy before signing with STLFC in January, replacing Tomas Gomez on the roster. He’ll likely be the backup behind Kyle Morton coming off an injury season in 2019.
AJ COCHRAN, Phoenix Rising FC (USL Championship)
Returns for a second season after appearing in 26 matches, all starts (2,341 minutes). He was a part of a defense that collected a club-record 15 clean sheets in 2019. He led the team in blocks (22), was second on the team in clearances (80) and areal duels won (111), third on the team in interceptions (36), and fourth in tackles won (29). Cochran was named to the USL Championship All-League 2nd Team
AUSTIN LEDBETTER, Phoenix Rising FC (USL Championship)
After being called up from FC Tucson in 2019, Ledbetter signs for 2020 with Phoenix as part of a Core 11 that return for a season that has the team listed as favorites in the Western Conference. He plays at right back to AJ’s center back.
— Chris Coppola (@chris_coppola) March 6, 2020
SAM FINK, Saint Louis FC
Fink signed with Saint Louis FC in March 2015 and appeared in 53 games and scored four goals for his hometown club during the 2015-2016 seasons. He would join Oklahoma City Energy FC at the start of the 2017 season and make 17 appearances before returning to STLFC at the start of the 2018 season (following Preki’s departure). He also 33 appearances during the 2019 season and co-led the team with seven goals.
TOMAS GOMEZ, Pittsburgh Riverhound
Gomez signing with Pittsburgh was announced February 28th following a trial. He previously played for owner Bob Lilley’s Rochester Rhinos in 2016 and 2017 before going on to play for Saint Louis FC in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He gets the start today (March 7th) against USLII side Toronto in advance of the season opener next week against Miami FC (home of GK Mark Pais).
ROBERT ‘Robby’ KRISTO, North Caronlina FC
Kristo scored 9 goals in seven starts (26 games played) for North Carolina in 2019 and is one of two forwards on the 2020 roster. He joined the team after initially playing in Germany following his graduation from SLU.
JAKE LEEKER, Miami FC
Leeker joined Portland Timbers II in 2019 and made at least 14 starts. He moved from Real Monarchs in 2018 where he made 17 starts.
AEDAN STANLEY, Portland Timbers 2
Stanley has departed Duke University following his sophomore season and signed a professional contract with the Portland Timbers 2 squad, where he joins Leeker. Stanley, 20, played the last two collegiate seasons at Duke University (2018-19), where he played in 36 career matches (36 starts) and registered three assists and earned All-ACC Freshman Team honors in 2018. Prior to Duke, the Columbia, Ill., native was a member of St. Louis FC’s academy and played three seasons for St. Louis FC (2016-18), where he made 18 appearances (six starts). Notably, Stanley has participated in multiple youth national team setups (U-18, U-20) for the U.S. Men’s National Team, joining Jack Maher at most of those.
JACK MAHER, Charlotte Independence
Nashville Soccer Cub announced March 6th they loaned 2020 Major League Soccer SuperDraft selection Jack Maher to Charlotte Independence (USL Championship) for the 2020 USL Championship season. Nashville SC has a right to recall Maher’s loan at any point throughout the year.
“When it comes to player development for our top young players, getting them meaningful matches is critical for them to continue to grow,” said Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “We saw it with the players who made the jump from the USL Championship a year ago to MLS this season, and we can’t thank Mike Jeffries and the Charlotte organization enough for giving Jack and Luke that same opportunity.”
MARK PAIS, Miami FC (USL Championship)
Mark returns to Miami FC for a second season as the team moves up from NPSL to the USL Championship. A former goalkeeper in the Championship for Saint Louis FC, Fresno FC and Toronto FC, Pais cemented his place as the regular starter for Miami FC during a successful 2019 for the club and brings 44 games of previous Championship experience to the new season.
MARK SEGBERS, Memphis 901 FC (USL Championship)
Signed with Memphis 901 FC after playing for Swope Park Rangers in 2019 and Orange County in 2018. He was drafted by the NE Revolution in 2018.
WAN KUZAIN WAN KAMAL, Sporting KC II
Sporting Kansas City signed midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal as a Homegrown Player on April 13, 2018. Kuzain, a product of the Sporting KC Academy and the ninth Homegrown Player in club history, signed an MLS contract through 2020 with options for 2021 and 2022. A holding midfielder, Kuzain becomes the first Sporting KC Homegrown signing to progress from the Sporting KC Academy to the Swope Park Rangers to the senior team.
For the Swope Park Rangers he started 22 USL matches and scored four goals in 2019. The Blue Testament offered some interesting background on his experiences in 2019.
In 2018 he started three of six MLS appearances and scored one goal (307 minutes played) with the 1st team. Made his Sporting KC and MLS debut as a second-half substitute in a 0-0 draw against Columbus Crew SC on May 27. Opened his Sporting KC and MLS scoring account with a goal after coming off the bench in the 18th minute of a 4-1 win over Minnesota United FC on June 3, becoming the second-youngest player to score a regular season goal in club history at 19 years and 262 days. Open Cup: Started and played 83 minutes in a 2-0 fourth-round win over Real Salt Lake on June 6. Started and played 90 minutes in a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas in the Round of 16 on June 16, assisting Daniel Salloi’s second goal in the 66th minute.