Talking Soccer: Catching up with former Huskies in MLS

Orlando City's Cyle Larin, left, takes a shot on goal past Toronto FC's Josh Williams during the second half of an MLS soccer game, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. Toronto FC won 2-1. (John Raoux/AP)

In recent years, the University of Connecticut has shown impressive ability to send its players to the quickly-growing Major League Soccer, sending Andre Blake and Cyle Larin as the top picks in the draft in 2014 and 2015, as well as a number of other first round selections throughout the years. Carlos Alvarez, Tony Cascio and Andrew Jean-Baptiste are just a number of players under Coach Ray Reid, who went on to play in the professional league.

Before the 2016 season, however, a large number of players on MLS teams were unable to stay at the top division in the United States and have been sent to lower division teams in the states and across the world. Out of the nine players in the MLS last season, only Andre Blake and Cyle Larin have continued in the league during the current season.

Andre Blake has shown growth since joining the league in 2014, pushing through injuries to cement himself as the starter for Philadelphia Union. After playing in only one game in 2014 and being sidelined for the majority of the 2015 season due to multiple knee injuries, the keeper started the majority of the team’s last 8 games to finish the year. Blake took the starting spot for the 2016 season and has started 26 of the team’s 27 games this year, registering 81 saves and 6 clean sheets while allowing a 66.9% save percentage on 121 shots faced. His performance and recognition nationwide this season has been good enough to lead the keeper to be voted onto the 2016 MLS All-Star roster via a fan vote through the MLS’s website.

While Blake was the first UConn player to be drafted first overall in the MLS draft, Cyle Larin quickly showed the school was not done producing top athletes. Again in 2015, UConn sent the Canadian international as first overall to Orlando FC. After a phenomenal rookie season in which he scored a record 17 goals, the striker has returned for the 2016 season to show he is not a one-season wonder. In the 25 games he has played for Orlando, Larin has managed to hit the back of the net 13 times while adding another three assists. Joining the only other Husky alumni in the league, Larin was also chosen for the 2016 MLS All-Star game.

Although Blake and Larin have performed excellently in the MLS, many others who previously played have dropped down to lower tiers of U.S. soccer or moved abroad. Carlos Alvarez, who played in the league from 2013-2015 for Chivas USA and Colorado Rapids, has moved to San Antonio FC where he joined Josh Ford, who played from 2011-2015 for the Seattle Sounders and Orlando City. Sergio Campbell, Tony Cascio and Kwame Watson-Siriboe also moved down to the United Soccer League, the third tier of U.S. soccer. Campbell joined the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Tony Cascio joined Arizona United, while veteran Kwame Watson-Siriboe made his move to the Orange County Blues. Huskies moving abroad include Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who moved to play in Spain’s Primera Andaluzza for Estella San Agustin C.F., and George Fochive, who traveled to play with Viborg F.F. in the Danish Superliga.


Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via joseph.s.burns@uconn.edu.