In the past three college soccer seasons, spanning 2021 (Spring and Fall) and 2022 (Fall), the University of Pittsburgh men’s soccer team made it to the College Cup twice, losing both times to Indiana University in the National Semifinal, and came within a penalty kick shootout of making it to a third College Cup.
Now, as the 2023 professional domestic college soccer season is in full swing, many key players from those teams have moved on to playing professionally across the United States.
We’re seeing that first-hand here in Pittsburgh, as currently, Arturo Ordonez and Edward Kizza, are playing major roles with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds this season, and there have been numerous others from Pitt who have been on the Hounds roster in the past three seasons.
“It really helped coming from our program (at Pitt),” Ordonez stated recently to Pittsburgh Soccer Now.
“It just speaks volumes about the way (Pitt Head Coach) Jay (Vidovich) built the program. The way he is developing great players. He helped me a lot. I improved a lot when I was there and helped me with my transition to the pros.”
In total, 12 former players are now on Major League Soccer and/or second/third division rosters, which brought a huge smile to Ordonez’s face, when asked about his former teammates.
“I am really happy for them,” Ordonez exclaimed. “It’s a great opportunity for them. I am wishing all of them the best.”
While Ordonez said he tries to stay in touch with his former teammates, he acknowledged that the demands of training, travel and game schedules often get in the way during the regular season.
Here’s our ‘unofficial’ list of the Pitt players who are now on pro rosters.
- Jasper Loeffelsend – Real Salt Lake (three appearances, three starts, 256 minutes played)
- Bertin Jacquesson – Real Salt Lake (no appearances in regular season, yet for the Generation Adidas selection)
- Nico Campuzano – New England Revolution II, called up to First Club on 3/25 for 10-day contract
- Valentin Noel – Austin FC II – 1 game, 1 start, 2 goals (first two goals of season for Austin FC II)
- Jackson Walti – Austin FC II – 1 game, 1 appearance
- Arturo Ordonez – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – 4 games, 4 starts, 360 minutes played (assist)
- Edward Kizza – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – 4 games, 3 starts, 197 minutes played
- Bryce Washington – Loudoun United FC – 1 appearance
- Yanis Leerman – Loudoun United FC – 3 games, 3 starts (270 minutes)
- Shane Wiedt – Sacramento Republic – 3 games, 3 starts (270 minutes)
- Robby Dambrot – Indy Eleven – no appearances in 2023 (13 appearances and two goals in 2022)
- Veljko Petkovic – Minnesota United 2 (Petkovic made 17 appearances with MU2 in 2022).
- Lucas Rosa – Sporting KC II
- Mohammad Abualnadi – Sporting KC II
- Henrique Gallina – Chicago Fire II
In addition to this list, Alexander Dexter, who was with the Pitt program from 2017 through 2021, had stints with both Loudoun United FC and the Charleston Battery.
The player making the biggest splash thus far at the highest level has been Jasper Loeffelsend, who has thrived with Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer since being drafted in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft.
In his rookie, season, native of Cologne, Germany, made 30 appearances, making 19 starts as he logged 1,651 minutes for a RSL club that finished seventh in the MLS Western Conference table, good for a first round playoff appearance, where they fell to Austin FC, in a penalty kick shootout.
Just like he did at Pitt, Loeffelsend had an impact on the left wing, as a solid two-way player in his first year in the pros, scoring one goal and adding five assists.
Here’s a look at his goal which came last July vs San Jose.
Major League Soccer 🇺🇲
Gol de Real Salt Lake
Jasper Löffelsend ⚽🇩🇪@realsaltlake#MLS
— Liga MX vs MLS (@LigamxvsMls) July 31, 2022
“You get the hunger back. You want to prove ‘don’t come to Salt Lake’. This is our home, we are going to defend it.” – @realsaltlakeofficial’s Jasper Löffelsend on defending America First Field #RSLonKSL #RSL
The other two players currently on MLS rosters are goalkeeper Nico Campuzano and winger Bertin Jacquesson, who was also selected by Real Salt Lake, as an Addidas Next Generation selection, after coming out after a solid Junior season at Pitt, scoring key goals in the NCAA tournament.
Campuzano, 25, earned a short-term call-up to supplement the Revolution’s goalkeeping unit as Earl Edwards Jr. was unavailable for last Saturday’s match due to illness. He first signed with Revolution II in December after spending the 2022 season with FC Cincinnati 2. The goalkeeper recorded 14 saves across four appearances in 2022.
Jacquesson has not cracked the lineup yet for RSL, but with the club struggling early in the season we may see him soon, as he did make the trip with the squad for their weekend match in Columbus.
Silva, Savarino and Musovski not pictured, all somewhat up in the air for Columbus tomorrow.
Bertín Jacquesson a slightly surprising travel squad inclusion. #RSL https://t.co/Me05013EAQ
— Caleb Turner (@calebturner23) March 31, 2023
Here in Pittsburgh, we’re familiar with numerous players who have put on the Black and Gold, representing the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who also played at Pitt. Since 2021, the Hounds have seen the likes of Shane Wiedt, Robby Dambrot, Edward Kizza and Arturo Ordonez go to battle at Highmark Stadium.
Kizza and Ordonez are currently with the club, as key contributors to a squad that has Championship aspirations. Ordonez had an outstanding rookie campaign, as he was among the team leaders in minutes played while anchoring the back line, while Kizza joined the Hounds on load from New England Revolution in 2022. In the offseason, the Hounds picked up Ordonez’s contract option, while Kizza was signed to a new deal with Pittsburgh, with a club option for 2024.
The two players who were selected in the MLS SuperDraft by Austin FC, Valentin Noel and Jackson Walti, have been signed by the club’s MLS Next Pro club, Austin FC II.
In its first match last week, both featured for AFCII, as Noel scored twice in his official professional debut, and Walti put in 60 minutes, leading the club to a season opening win.
Pitt legend Valentin Noel is now playing for Austin FC II and just scored two goals in their win over Houston Dynamo II last night.
Here is the winner in their season opener.@pghsoccernow https://t.co/zptGgQvYow
— Dominic Campbell (@DOMISMONEY) March 25, 2023
Pittsburgh soccer fans should be on the lookout this season at Highmark Stadium, as some of these former Pitt players will be making return appearances to Pittsburgh this summer.
Wiedt, now with Sacramento Republic, will make his return to Pittsburgh, on July 8, when his club makes its first-ever trip to the Steel City, along with former Hounds Danny Vitiello and Russell Cicerone.
Leerman and Washington come back to the Burgh, on September 9, when Loudoun makes the short trek from Virginia.
Dambrot, son of Duquesne men’s basketball coach, Keith Dambrot, returns with Indy Eleven, on July 26.
Pittsburgh Soccer Now Interview with Arturo Ordonez