Los Angeles, CA (January 13, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks had an eventful Friday the 13th at the 2017 MLS SuperDraft at the LA Convention Center when three more former Bucks players had their name called as they were selected to take the next step in fulfilling their dream of becoming professional soccer players. Lalas Abubaker (Ghana/ University of Dayton) led the trio when he was selected with the fifth over all pick in the first round by the Columbus Crew. Francis de Vries (New Zealand/ St. Francis University) went next in the second round with the 29th overall pick to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Ethan Kutler (Lansing, NY/ Colgate University) rounded out the threesome when the New York Red Bulls selected him in the second round with the 39th over all pick.
Abubaker played only one season in a Bucks uniform this past summer, but his dominant play in helping the Bucks win their record 3rd PDL North American championship drew attention from most MLS scouts. For his outstanding play, he was named PDL Defender of the Year before heading back to Dayton to finish up his stellar career as the captain of the Flyers men’s team. Many of the scouts and coaches in attendance at the MLS Combine last week were impressed with his fitness, strength, speed and overall athletic ability. Lalas excelled both in the class room and on the field as he was honored at Dayton as a Scholar All-American, Atlantic 10 Defender of the Year and First Team All-Conference, De Vries completed his third season for the Bucks this year and was once again a dominant force along the back line, combining with Abubaker to create a dynamic duo that helped the Bucks not only win the post season title, but the team’s fifth Regular Season championship as well. In doing so, the Bucks defense led the 67 team PDL in goals allowed, yielding only 9 in 18 games played (regular season and playoffs). The New Zealand center back was a key component to the Bucks winning the PDL Championship in 2014 as well and his outstanding play for the Bucks in the summer and for St. Francis University (PA) the past four years have given the MLS scouts plenty of time to see that he is a genuine prospect to play at the top level of soccer in North America. De Vries also possesses a lethal left foot and free kick ability that led to five set piece goals over the three years he played in Pontiac.
Kutler played for the Bucks in 2015 and helped the team to the PDL Regular Season title that season and added to a very solid mid field that was one of the PDL best. At Colgate, he was a three-time All-Region player and three-time first team All-Patriot League selection and finished his career with 33 goals and 81 points, second in school history. Kutler led the Raiders to a Patriots League championship and a berth in last year’s NCAA tournament.
The first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft were held in conjunction with the NSCAA Coaches Convention held in Los Angeles, just one day after the completion of the five day Combine held down the road at the Stub Hub Center, home of MLS LA Galaxy. Seventy players participated in the Combine and most of those were present as part of the first 44 players selected. The SuperDraft continues on Tuesday via teleconference, when the final two rounds will play out and 44 more players will have the opportunity of a lifetime when selected.
The three selections on Friday bring the Bucks total of former players selected to Major League Soccer to an incredible 63 players, since the first SuperDraft was held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in 1999. Butler defender Jeremy Aldrich (Mattawan, MI) was the first Bucks player ever to be selected when he was chosen with the 19th pick of the second round by the Miami Fusion. The Bucks secure most individual team records in the PDL, but after Friday’s draft they can add one more impressive stat to their resume. The Michigan Bucks are the only team in the world that has had at least one player selected in every MLS SuperDraft since its inception in 1999.
Bucks Director of Coaching Gary Parsons was pleased with the three promotions on Friday but was disappointed that there weren't at least a few more as well. “We certainly knew that Lalas and Frannie were going to go in the first two rounds. Ethan we weren't sure about but are very happy for him. He had a solid college career and is a hard working player. For my money, I wouldn’t have passed on Goldie (David Goldsmith) or Russell (Cicerone). But Tuesday is another day and I suspect that both will hear their names called. In this business it doesn't matter if you are called first on day one or last on day two; you just need to be invited to camp to prove you belong. I think you will hear more Bucks being drafted on Tuesday as well.”
To keep up with the latest MLS draft news and all the PDL news as the Bucks prepare for their 22nd season this May, follow us on Twitter @buckssoccer and on Facebook @ MichiganBucksSoccer and Instagram @MichiganBucksPDL, The Bucks plan to release their upcoming schedule in early February as they prepare to defend their PDL titles.
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PDL 2016 Championship MVP Russell Cicerone with PDL Director Todd Eason
Coach Muftari PDL Coach of the Year, Adam Najem Creative Player of the Year and Lalas Abubakar Defender of the Year