On April 3rd, 2017, the University of Buffalo cut four varsity athletic programs: men’s swimming and diving, women’s rowing, baseball, and men’s soccer. The same men’s soccer program that Portland Timbers MLS SuperDraft pick Russell Cicerone spent four years competing for, and where he won the 2015 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. For Cicerone, the decision to cut the four programs was “awful” according to his tweet following the elimination of his beloved program.
But life goes on, and Cicerone is now representing his school and his adopted city in the pros, but he admits it hurts to be away.
“I know I moved on and graduated, but I’m really hurt for my teammates there.”
For the Timbers’ midfielder, his time in Buffalo was incredible, and he got his foothold in the Buffalo soccer scene following his freshman year with the Bulls when he spent the summer with FC Buffalo.
“That was a good experience,” Cicerone said, also saying his time with the club helped him settle into the city as a whole. “It was nice to be a part of the Buffalo soccer community with the biggest club in the area.”
The Bloomfield, Michigan native took the NPSL by storm in 2014, receiving a plethora of honors, including All-NPSL Team, Mitre National Player of the Week, FCB MVP, Best Offensive Player, and the Supporters Choice Award. Cicerone was a constant threat in the attack, tallying eight goals and six assists in 13 matches.
FC Buffalo co-Owner Nick Mendola is both proud of Cicerone and unsurprised at his signing on the next level.
“Russell is a massive talent with a unique creative streak when he has the ball. There was never a question he would get a shot at the next level after his time at UB, and we’re excited to see where his future takes him.”
After his time with FC Buffalo, Cicerone’s stats for the Bulls went off the map, scoring 36 goals in his final three seasons, including netting 14 goals and nine assists in his senior season. This was even an improvement from a surprising junior year where he won MAC Player of the Year and scored 12 goals with eight assists.
Cicerone’s time at UB was unprecedented and extremely successful, leading the Bulls to a Top 25 ranking in 2016 and two straight MAC Championship games, before the elimination of the program in the spring of 2017.
Cameron Hogg, a junior goalkeeper at UB, was a teammate of Cicerone’s at both UB and FC Buffalo. He was quick to sing his praises.
“He elevates people around him. He helped bring the team, as long as other players to the heights it reached. He has high standards for himself as well as his teammates and I’ve never seen those standards drop for as long as I played with him.”
Cicerone’s heading to the pros had a big impact on Hogg and the rest of Cicerone’s teammates.
“That was something special,” Hogg said on Cicerone’s selection in the MLS SuperDraft. “Seeing that whole experience and thinking ‘hey that was one of us,’ was really exciting for all of us; we were all so excited for him.”
Following his stellar season as a senior in what turned out to also be the program’s final season, Cicerone entered the MLS SuperDraft and was taken in the fourth round by the Portland Timbers. Cicerone is now with Portland Timbers 2, and saw his first action as a substitute against Sacramento, but Cicerone wants to move up in the squad.
“I want to establish myself as a starter, eventually I want to be with the first team and play in the MLS.”
Given Cicerone’s unprecedented scoring record at the University of Buffalo, the midfielder is sure to do the city proud.