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Vidovich, Pitt reload with eight newcomers to experienced, battle-tested roster

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

Pitt men’s Soccer Head Coach Jay Vidovich announced the addition of eight new players for the upcoming 2021 regular season on Monday as the team begins preparations for a new season.

The Panthers reached new heights in the 2020-21 extended season, and are ranked third in preseason poll heading into the Fall 2021 season.

Roaring back near the top of rankings: Pitt ranked third in United Soccer Coaches poll

Of the eight newcomers, five are freshmen, including Guilherme Feitosa, Cade Hagan, Andrew Noel, Luis Sahmkow and Michael Sullivan, who is the lone player from the Pittsburgh area.

Two enter in as transfers, with Mohammad Abualnadi coming in as a junior from Notre Dame and Lucas Rosa a graduate student from Saint Francis, while Joe van der Sar enters in as a junior.

This class will join a roster that includes many returnees from a team that made it all the way to the College Cup in May. The Panthers return 20 players, including 10 starters, from last year’s squad that finished a school record 16-4 with appearances in the NCAA College Cup, ACC Championship Final and were named ACC Coastal Division Champions.

Here’s a closer look at Pitt’s eight new additions:

PItt Men’s Soccer: Class of 2021

We’ll start off with one player we’re pretty familiar with.

Sullivan enters Pitt as no stranger to Pittsburgh Soccer Now and the local soccer scene — as he was a high school standout at Deer Lakes High School.

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A native of Tarentum, Pa., the 6-0 midfielder totaled 69 goals and 51 assists and was named to the All-Section and All-WPIAL teams multiple times. He helped Deer Lakes make the State Championship final his freshman year, the first in the school’s history, with 12 goals and 10 assists that year. As a sophomore, he tallied 15 goals and 13 assists en-route to All-Section honors. He had a breakout year as a junior, scoring 20 goals and tallying 17 assists, helping Deer Lakes make a WPIAL finals appearance. He earned All-Section and All-WPIAL that year. He concluded his time at Deer Lakes with 22 goals and 11 assists senior year, receiving All-Section, All-WPIAL and All-State honors while being named on the All-American short list.

Abualnadi, a 6-1 defender from Leawood, Kan., played two seasons at Notre Dame and helped the Fighting Irish earn a top-five ranking in the United Coaches Soccer poll a season ago. With the Fighting Irish, he appeared in 35 matches, making 30 starts and tallying one goal and one assist. Prior to Notre Dame, Abualnadi played club ball for Sporting KC academy for two seasons, playing with the U17 and U19 teams. He signed an academy contract his senior year of high school with Sporting KC, making his USL Championship debut against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, logging four matches and 329 minutes played. He also debuted for the U19 Jordan National team his senior year.

Feitosa, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recently played for Paris and AJ Auxerre academy in France. He was a member of the French national champion U19 team, who won the National 3 Division with the B team. He was named team captain and helped the team go undefeated that season and moved up to the National 2 Division the following year. Born in Salvador, Brazil, the 6-0 midfielder attended Lucee Moulin de Preuilly in France.

A product of Chicago, Ill., Hagan joins the Panthers with global club and United States National Team experience. The 5-11 forward most recently played for Sporting Gijon in Spain, playing with the reserve squad and recording four goals and one assist his senior year. Competition he played against included RCD Espanyol, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo Alaves. At 14 years old, Hagan was called up to play for the USA U15 National Team. He stared in multiple matches and scored a game-winner against Uruguay in a tournament final. Hagan was rated the No. 1 forward by TopDrawerSoccer his freshman year.

Noel provides depth at the goalkeeper position for the Panthers. The 6-5 Montclair, N.J., native began his club career at Cedar Stars Bergen academy before transferring to New York Red Bulls academy his sophomore year. He started for the Red Bulls U17 team and was called up to the U17 US National Camp junior year. During his junior season, he won two penalty shootouts in the GA Cup and was later called up to the U18 National Team camp. He most recently played and started for the New York Red Bulls U19 team. Noel attended Montclair High School.

Rosa, from Atibaia, São Paulo, Brazil, most recently played for Saint Francis University. The 5-8 midfielder was named NEC Player of the Year and College Soccer News Third Team All-America in 2019 after leading the Red Flash offensively with 11 goals, two assists, 60 shots and 29 shots on goal. That year, he tallied six game-winning goals and a .483 shot percentage. Rosa earned United Soccer Coaches Northeast Region, First Team All-NEC, United Soccer Coaches First Team Scholar All-America and Scholar All-Region. Rosa played club ball for Atibaia/Ferroviaria and was named team captain prior to Saint Francis.

Sahmkow, from Richardson, Texas, comes to Pitt with playing experience with Solar F.C. From 2018-21, he earned multiple top finishes and awards with the club, including second-place at the U15/16 Dallas Cup and third in the U15/16 US National Tournament in 2018. He was crowned DA U16/17 National Champion in 2019 and competed in the MLS Next 2021, leading the league in goals (28) and winning the U19 Dallas Cup championship along with MVP honors in the final. Born in Venezuela, the 6-3 forward attended Plano East High School in Plano, Texas, where he was the team leader in goals for both junior varsity and varsity his freshman year. That season he was named Second Team All-District.

Rounding out the class is van der Sar, who played club ball for AFC Ajax’s highest youth divisions from 2014-17. With the U17 team, he helped lead the team to a second-place finish in the ABN AMRO Future Cup Tournament. In both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with the U19 team, his team won the youth division championship and qualified for the UEFA Youth league. A 6-1 goalkeeper from Noordwijk, Netherlands, he attended the American School of the Hague in Wassenaar, Netherlands, and Webster University Leiden in Leiden, Netherlands, prior to Pitt.

Pitt begins 2021 competition at home Saturday, August 14 at home against Robert Morris in an exhibition starting at 7 p.m. Regular season play begins at home Thursday, August 26 vs. Duquesne at 8 PM.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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