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Pathway to the Pros: Three Panthers land on eligibility list ahead of Tuesday’s MLS SuperDraft

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

It’s starting to become an annual ritual to see players from University of Pittsburgh’s men’s soccer program land on Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft eligibility list, with some being drafted and most advancing to continue to play in the professional ranks

Ahead of Tuesday’s 2022 MLS SuperDraft, three Panthers, Jasper Löeffelsend, Arturo Ordonez and Alexander Dexter, all key contributors for Pitt’s back-to-back ACC Coastal Division title winning squads which made deep runs in the last two NCAA tournaments, are among the prospects who are eligible for selection.

“We are excited for them,” Pitt men’s soccer head coach Jay Vidovich said in an interview with Pittsburgh Soccer Now in December, when Löeffelsend and Ordonez participated in MLS combine during the College Cup weekend in Cary, North Carolina.

“It’s a process. From what I know, they did well in the MLS combine, but things are up in the air with many MLS teams. Like many players that come through our program, they have aspirations to to play at an even higher level.”

Of the three, Löeffelsend’s name has appeared the most in numerous ‘mock draft’ lists as a potential first round selection.

The speedy outside back/winger from Cologne, Germany, who came to Pitt as a Graduate Student, was a consistent playmaker for the Panthers — amassing 18 assists in two seasons with the program.

Löeffelsend won ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and earned Second Team All-America honors in the 2020-21 and 2021 seasons, becoming the first two-time United Soccer Coaches All-American in program history. He finished the 2020-21 season as one of the best passers in the country and kept that status throughout the 2021 campaign, currently ranking* 18th in the country and second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total assists (9) and 14th in the nation and second in the league in assists per game (0.53). He concluded the year with two goals, nine assists and 11 shots in 17 games played.

As one of the team’s anchors along the backline the past three seasons, Ordoñez finished the 2021 season with three goals, one assist and 18 shots in 19 games played.

Arturo Ordonez (photo courtesy Pitt athletics)

The Salou, Spain, native was a pivotal piece to the Panther back line that earned six shutouts this season and set a school record with 11 wins at home. Ordoñez‘s efforts on the field earned him All-ACC Second Team and All-ACC Tournament Team honors.

Dexter became a constant fixture along the left wing and as a forward in the Pitt attack since his arrival on campus in 2017.

In April, he was honored as College Soccer News National Player of the Week for his performance at home against Virginia, as his multi-assist game was the fifth of his career,18 for his career, six back from Eric Prex’s record of 24.

Dexter was a mainstay in the Pitt line-up since his freshman year in 2017.  In his career at Pitt, he made a remarkable 92 appearances (starting in 67 of those matches), scoring 22 goals and 22 assists, primarily as a left forward/winger. A native of Brooklyn, Dexter spent time with German academy FK Pirmasens prior to coming to Pittsburgh while attending Kaiserslautern High School. He was a two-time European Athlete of the Year, two-time European MVP, three-time European top goal scorer and a team captain.

PSN 1-on-1: Pitt men’s soccer senior forward Alexander Dexter

Heading into the 2021 SuperDraft, Dexter and Löeffelsend also made themselves available, but since neither were chosen last January, they remained at Pitt — helping the Panthers reach the program’s first-ever College Cup in May.  Additionally, they were granted eligibility for another season as fall-sport athletes.

Additionally, rising junior Bertin Jacquesson was invited to the MLS combine during the same weekend as the College Cup in December, along with Ordonez and Loeffelsend, however, it’s now more likely that Jacquesson, a native of France, will return to Pitt in the Fall, as he was not included on the MLS eligibility list for this year’s SuperDraft.

Former Panther, Nyk Sessock, who played at Pitt from 2018-19, but transferred to Indiana ahead of the 2020-21 season, has also landed on the SuperDraft eligibility list.

Pitt’s Growing Presence in MLS SuperDraft and in the professional ranks

Edward Kizza became the first-ever first-round draft pick and just the third former Pitt player to be drafted into the top professional soccer league in the United States last January.  Kizza spent most of the 2021 season with Revolution II but he did appear in 11 matches with three starts for the first team and tallied one assist.

Prior to Kizza, Pitt placed former Panthers midfielders Pol Planellas and Javi Perez in the league as members of the Los Angeles Football Club.

Planellas was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft with the 24th overall pick, and Perez was taken in the third round of the 2019 draft with the 64th overall pick. However, Planellas did not make it out of the preseason in Los Angeles, and Perez saw his career derailed by injury issues.

The pathway to the professional ranks is not limited to Major League Soccer, as other recent members of Pitt’s program who didn’t get drafted by Major League Soccer continue to pursue professional soccer playing careers.

Ordonez’s center back partner for two seasons, Bryce Washington, was signed to a Homegrown Contract by Atlanta United following the 2020-21 college season.

Despite joining Atlanta United 2 after the start of the 2021 USL Championship season in June, Washington completed his first year with the organization by making 21 appearances and will be heading into the Major League Soccer team camp in contention for a spot on the first team.

Two more players who have been consistent performers in the USL Championship in the past couple of seasons, Robby Dambrot and Shane Wiedt have combined to make more than 100 appearances at that level for Loudoun United, and in Wiedt’s case, with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

Wiedt was a mainstay on the Hounds’ back line in 2021, as his steady and consistent play earned him an opportunity to return to the club, as his contract option was picked up for the 2022 season.

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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