Bucks Send Nine Players to MLS in January; Atuahene leads seven college picks; Hildebrandt, Grinwis sign deals
Pontiac, MI (January 22, 2018) - The Michigan Bucks continued their record of excellence in recruiting and player development when they upped their total number of players selected to Major League Soccer (MLS) to an incredible 75 since the inception of the MLS SuperDraft in 1999. Seven college players heard their names called at the 2018 SuperDraft last week, while two former Bucks standout goal keepers were upgraded from USL (Division 2) to MLS this past month as well. Mitch Hildebrandt (Livonia, MI/ Oakland) led the way with his outstanding play at FC Cincinnati to sign with Atlanta United FC just a few weeks before long time Bucks standout Adam Grinwis (Ada, MI/ University of Michigan) moved from Saint Louis FC to sign with Orlando City SC.
At the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia last week, Francis Atuahene (Ghana/ University of Michigan) heard his name called early in the first round as the fourth overall pick to FC Dallas. The outstanding prospect turned heads with the Bucks this past summer, followed by an outstanding year at Michigan and a stellar performance at the MLS combine in Orlando prior to the draft.
With the 11th pick in the first round, FC Dallas chose another speed demon, Ema Twumasi (Ghana/ Wake Forest), also from the Right to Dream academy in Ghana. FC Dallas will be trying to replicate what the Bucks tried to do last summer by lining up two of college soccer’s most dangerous attackers simultaneously. Unfortunately, for the Bucks, due to both players college classes and minor injuries, they were never able to get the two talents on the pitch at the same time.
The first day of the MLS SuperDraft ended with Toronto FC choosing three-year Bucks goal keeper Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan University), moving north of the border to compete for the 2017 MLS Champions. Shepherd not only helped the Bucks win the PDL North American Championship, PDL Regular Season championship and Hank Steinbrecher USASA National Championship, but led the Broncos to their best season in program history this past fall.
As the draft continued on Sunday, Elliott Collier (New Zealand/ Loyola University) was selected by the Chicago Fire with the 49th overall selection. Fellow countryman Cory Brown (New Zealand/ Xavier) was drafted by the Vancouver Whitecaps at 62nd overall. To close out the third round, Alfonso Pinheiro (Brazil/ Albany) was the 71st pick, heading to DC United. Pinhero played one full season for the Bucks in 2015 before moving to FC Tucson to finish his memorable PDL career.
Oakland University product Wilfred Williams (Liberia) was the seventh Bucks alum to be selected in the draft as the 82nd overall fourth round selection to Sporting KC. Williams spent the better part of the past two seasons training with the Bucks, while attending MLS trials throughout the summer.
This year’s seven MLS selections match the Bucks best season of all time, when they also had seven MLS players chosen back in 2011, led by Zarek Valentin (Akron), who was the MLS SuperDraft's fourth overall pick that year. Valentin continues his successful MLS career with the Portland Timbers.
With Hildebrandt, Grinwis and Shepherd joining Steve Clark (DC United) in Division 1, every Bucks starting goal keeper from 2006-2017 is now playing in MLS. All four of the outstanding goal keepers helped win titles during their time with the Bucks. Clark (2006-2009) brought home the first PDL North American title in 2006. Hildebrandt held the fort for two seasons (2010-2011). Grinwis (2011-2014) won the regular season title in 2012 and both PDL national titles in 2014, as well as MVP of the 2014 post season tournament. Shepherd (2015-2017) won the most titles of all and is prepared to continue the tradition of great Bucks goal keepers at the next level.
Bucks Director of Coaching Gary Parsons was happy to see the number of young men receiving the opportunity to pursue their dream at the next level. “This is why Dan (Duggan) and I do this. We love being able to give the kids the chance to hear their name called and prepare for the next step in their career. We are proud of each of these young men and who they are was really exemplified in the moving speech delivered by Francis (Atuahene) when he was welcomed by the full house in Philadelphia. We have accomplished more than most any team in history but the most incredible stat of all is that the Bucks are the only team in North American soccer history- at any level- to have sent at least one player to MLS in each year since the draft began in 1999. That is a tribute to what this organization is all about. We look to continue that this season as we rebuild from graduating so many players,” said Parsons.
The Bucks will begin their 23rd season in the PDL this May, opening the season with a US Open Cup match with an opponent to be named in April. Players for the upcoming season will be announced, along with this year’s PDL schedule in the coming weeks. To follow the Bucks, please visit the web site at www.buckssoccer.com or follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks, as well as on Facebook @MichiganBucksSoccer and Instagram @MichiganBucksPDL.