Six NPSL alumni were selected in the first four rounds of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. That group included Russell Cicerone (Portland Timbers), Liam Callahan (Colorado Rapids), Danny Deakin (Orlando City SC), Lars Eckenrode (Toronto FC), Alec Ferrell (Minnesota United), and Ethan Kutler (New York Red Bulls).
Cicerone, a midfielder/forward from the University of Buffalo, was drafted 76th overall, going to the Timbers in the fourth round. He appeared in 13 games for FC Buffalo in 2014, registering eight goals and six assists.
“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Russell during the summer of 2014,” FC Buffalo head coach Brendan Murphy commented. “He brought a different level of competitiveness to our team and has an uncanny ability around the goal. With the combination of his incredible skills and dogged determination, he has unlimited potential. I wish him continued success as he embarks on this new chapter.”
Cicerone was a four-time selection to the All-Mid-Atlantic Conference first team, becoming the first University of Buffalo player and third Mid-Atlantic Conference player to earn first team All-Mid-Atlantic Conference honors for four consecutive seasons. Additionally, Cicerone became just the second player in University of Buffalo history to win the Mid-Atlantic Conference Player of the Year award following his junior season in 2015.
Starting in each of his 71 career appearances, Cicerone concluded his collegiate career ranked first in assists (22), second in goals (42) and second in points (106) in University of Buffalo history, while also ranking third in MAC history in goals and points. In his senior season in 2016, Cicerone tallied a career-high 14 goals and nine assists (37 points), compiling the second-highest point total for a single season in the school’s history, while helping the Bulls advance to their second consecutive Mid-Atlantic Conference championship match for the first time.
Callahan, a defender from Syracuse University that was selected 24th overall, tallied two goals and added one assist in his senior campaign. The Orange’s two-year captain transferred to Syracuse after spending his freshman season at Villanova University. In his first season with the Orange, Callahan appeared in 18 games and helped the defense register an ACC-best 12 shutouts in 2014. A year later, Callahan would help Syracuse advance to the program’s first-ever College Cup, adding one goal and nine assists for the season.
The Amherst, NY native appeared in four games for FC Buffalo in 2014. “It was a tremendous honor to have Liam playing for FC Buffalo in 2014,” Murphy added. “He raised the level of the entire team around him at every session and he approaches every opportunity with the mindset of a professional. I am excited to watch how Liam’s career progresses and I have great confidence that he will make the most of this incredible journey.”
Deakin, an attacking midfielder who was selected 64th overall, spent the 2016 NPSL season with Detroit City FC. He appeared in nine games (seven starts), tallying one goal and three assists in 681 minutes.
“We are extremely proud and excited for Danny and his future with Orlando City SC,” DCFC head coach Ben Pirmann noted. “We have a great relationship with their coaching and technical staff and I’m glad that Detroit City FC could help propel Danny to his next step in his journey. He is a great player and a wonderful young man. We wish him and OCSC the best!”
Deakin spent the 2013 NPSL season with the Erie Admirals. He and the Admirals would enjoy an incredible run of form, only falling in the national semifinal to eventual champions RVA FC. That was their third national semifinal in five years, a massive accomplishment for the one of the league’s oldest and most successful programs.
Deakin would return to the Admirals, now rebranded as the Commodores, for the summer of 2015. He would lead Erie with seven goals and six assists.
Deakin enjoyed great collegiate success at both the University of South Carolina and Mercyhurst University. In both of his years with the Gamecocks, the Sheffield United Academy product was a First-Team All-Conference USA selection. In 2016, Deakin played in all 20 matches and led the team with seven goals, five of them game-winners, and six assists. He was also named to the 2016 Watch List for the MAC Hermann Trophy in July.
In his junior season, he started all 21 matches for the Gamecocks and finished second in Conference USA with 11 goals.
The Sheffield, England, native was a two-time NCAA Division II First-Team Daktronics All-America selection in 2013 and 2014 at Mercyhurst, where he led the Lakers to two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances before transferring to South Carolina.
Eckenrode, a defender from the University of Michigan, was selected 83rd overall by Toronto. He spent two seasons with AFC Ann Arbor, tallying a total of three goals and two assists.
“When Lars is on the pitch, you feel a sense of security on the backline,” AFC Ann Arbor GM/Co-owner Bilal Saeed said. “He’s a special player and a stand up guy. It’s fantastic that our club gave him an opportunity to develop as a player and gain exposure for his talents. Being the first of The Mighty Oak to push on to the MLS, he’ll be a part of our club’s history forever. As a favorite amongst the fans, the community and within the organization, he knows we’re all rooting for his continued success.”
A 2016 team captain at UM, Eckenrode earned second team All-Big Ten honors the past year, the second Big Ten honor of his career after being named to the all-freshman team (2013). In his senior season, he started all 17 matches for the Maize and Blue in central defense, playing a team-high 1,630 minutes. A four-year starter, he suited up in 67 matches as a Wolverine and was the fourth defender in U-M history to earn All-Big Ten second team honors.
Ferrell who played with Zanesville Athletic FC in 2013. Kutler, a forward from Colgate University, was chosen in the second round (39th overall). He spent his time in the NPSL with Greater Binghamton FC Thunder.
“Ethan Kutler was and is a dynamic player,” former GBFC Thunder head coach and current GM Al Mydlinski concluded. “He has the ability to finish under pressure when the ball is delivered. At the same time he can create his own opportunities; having the ability to get behind defenders with explosive acceleration and great skill. I am sure that he will prove to be an excellent acquisition and will play in the MLS for a long time. More importantly, he was a great teammate. He worked continuously, both offensively and defensively, and played the role that was defined. He utilized his individual stills to create for others as well as for himself. I look forward to watching his progress at the highest levels of soccer and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to have him play for the Binghamton Thunder.”
A New Yorker who was born in Cooperstown and grew up in Lansing, Kutler played four seasons at Colgate. The forward completed his college career with 74 games played, 69 starts, 26 goals and 11 assists.
He received NSCAA All-Northeast Region honors each of his final three seasons with the Raiders, including First Team honors as a senior. In 2016, Kutler was named Patriot League Tournament MVP, an ECAC Division I All-Star and his 81 career points rank second all-time in the Colgate record books. The 2015 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year attended Lansing High School, where he received 2011 All-State Player honors.