With the next NPSL season slowly approaching, Duluth FC wants to take a moment to acknowledge the many achievements earned by our players in collegiate soccer following their involvement in the 2018 season, which brought Duluth’s its biggest success in club history when the BlueGreens won their first ever regional title. Success, however, didn’t end there for your 2018 BlueGreens.
Adrian Leal represented the University of Wisconsin Superior this year and helped UWS become 2018 UMAC Conference Champions. In addition, Leal made the United Soccer Coaches Norh All-Region Team and the 2018 UMAC Men’s Soccer All-Conference First Team. Leal featured for Duluth in several friendlies and scored in the club’s Northland College intrasquad friendly.
Aidan Hill led Barton Community College through a great season, where they were named NJCAA Plains District Champions, KJCCC West Conference Champions, and were NJCAA National Finalists. Became a constant presence in the Duluth squad for 2018 and scored a key goal in the penalty shootout against Grand Rapids FC in the NPSL North quarter finals.
Alberto Ciroi brought his excellent form between the sticks for Duluth back to Baker University where he made the Heart of America All-Conference 3rd Team and reached the NAIA National Tournament Quarter Finals. Ciroi earned adoration from BlueGreens supporters after managing to save penalties in three different penalty shootouts for Duluth FC, one in the USOC and two in the playoffs.
Brooks Rice finished his first collegiate season at UNC-Greensboro and helped the team become NCAA DI Southern Conference Tournament finalists after scoring four goals in his first NPSL season. Rice scored a key goal in the quarter final against Grand Rapids FC and scored a late winner against VSLT in the middle of the regular season to help spark Duluth’s rush to the top of the table.
Charlie Evans became a NCAA DII GLIAC Conference Tournament Finalist while with Northwood University. Evans featured in the BlueGreens squad sent to Michigan to play in the NPSL North semi-final and final.
Dane Kowacheck, who scored four goals for Duluth in 2018, made the NCAA DII Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s All Conference 2nd team while playing for Montana State University Billings. Kowacheck scored a late equalizer against the TwinStars in the first week of play to give the BlueGreens a key road point early in the season and featured against Miami FC in the NPSL National Semi-Final.
Daniel Hedstrom, who has been a longtime friend and player of Duluth FC, found himself part of the United Soccer Coaches DIII Scholar All-American First Team, United Soccer Coaches DIII All-American 3rd Team, All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athleteic Conference Team, and the United Soccer Coaches DIII All-North Region First Team. He also received All-MIAC honors and reached the MIAC Conference finals.
Fernando Bicalho also represented the University of Wisconsin Superior, where he took part in UWS’ 2018 UMAC Conference Champion side. Bicalho featured in several friendlies for Duluth in 2018.
Gonnie Ben-Tal joined forces with Alberto Ciroi at Baker University where he was named in the NAIA All-American Third Team, was named a 2018 Daktronics-NAIA-Scholar-Athlete and made the Heart of America All-Conference 1st Team. He also reached the NAIA National Tournament Quarter Finals. Ben-Tal helped the BlueGreens go on a four game win streak after missing the first half of the season and scored a late winner against the TwinStars to help secure Duluth’s second place finish.
Jan Hoffelner brought his NPSL region-winning skills to Presbyterian College this season, where he made the NCAA DI Big South Conference All-Tournament Team and the Big South All-Conference 2nd Team. He was also a Big South Conference Finalist. Hoffelner played in 13 of Duluth’s 14 regular season matches and was awarded the goalkeeping spot in the NPSL National Best XI.
Julian Lucumi, who registered countless minutes bursting up and down the wing for Duluth in 2018, was a NAIA Mid-South Conference Regular Season Champion with Cumberland University. Lucumi helped the BlueGreens in defense and offense throughout the season and scored a penalty in the club’s penalty shootout victory over AFC Ann Arbor to win the regional title.
Leonardo Almeida proved a talisman player for Lake Superior College where he became a NJCAA Region XIII Finalist and made the Minnesota College Athletic Conference men’s soccer All-Conference team. Almeida scored against La Crosse Aris in the regular season and appeared for the club in the regional final as a key substitution.
Robbie Sobczak built on a well fought journey through the reserves and first team of Duluth FC in 2018 and received an All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Honorable Mention while with Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Sobczak appeared in several friendlies and came on as a sub in Duluth’s home match against La Crosse Aris.
Ryan Tyrer brought his defensive and offensive talents, lest we forget the centerback ended 2018 as Duluth FC’s lead goal scorer with 6 goals, to Anderson University. He went on to receive spots in the United Soccer Coaches NCAA DII Men’s All-Southeast Region – 2nd Team and SAC All-Conference 2nd Team. He also appeared in the NCAA Southeast Regional Semi-Finals and was a SAC Conference Finalist. Tyrer was also named in the NPSL North Conference best XI.
Santiago Castro became a NCAA DI MAAC Conference Champion while at Rider University this fall and appeared in the NCAA DI National Tournament. Castro was a common face in the BlueGreen midfield in 2018, contributing smart passes and tough tackles across the north. Castro scored a key penalty against Grand Rapids in the regional quarter finals and was nominated for the NPSL Midwest-North’s conference Best XI.
Sora Wakabayashi brought his constant dedication and skill to Barton Community College this season, where he was a NJCAA National Finalists, NJCAA Plains District Champion, and KJCCC West Conference Champion. In addition, he made the KJCCC All-West Conference – 1st Team and NJCAA Region VI All Region 1st Team. Wakabayashi quickly became a must-have in the 2018 line up for Duluth FC upon arriving, scoring a goal against La Crosse Aris, making a key assist for Garga Nyuah against Minneapolis City, and consistently guarding the BlueGreens defensive third.