Pair of Former UCF Knights Return To Major League Soccer Action As USL Championship Begins July 11

By  //  July 7, 2020

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Soccer to return after four-month hold on the sport across the globe.

Soccer is ready to return after COVID-19 put a four-month hold on the sport across the globe. (UCF image)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Soccer is ready to return after COVID-19 put a four-month hold on the sport across the globe.

Multiple UCF alumni are poised to leave their mark on the professional soccer world, as players, coaches and fans ready for a restart in the United States.

A pair of former Knights are set to get back to MLS action and five alumni look to leave their mark in the USL Championship. The MLS returns on July 8 while the USL resumes play on July 11.

Knights in the MLS
Two Knights are currently on rosters at the highest level of American soccer. Sean Johnson of NYCFC and Warren Creavalle of the Philadelphia Union are set to compete in Group A of the MLS is Back tournament.

Johnson (2007-08) is playing in his 11th season in the MLS as a goalkeeper for NYCFC, his fourth season with the club.

He has notched 44 wins over his first three seasons with the team, leading them to the postseason in all three years. In total, he has collected 102 wins, 60 clean sheets and 839 saves at the MLS level.

NYCFC is looking to defend their No. 1 seed in the East from last season but are off to an 0-2-0 start to the campaign, dropping both of their matches by scores of 1-0.

Johnson sits in sixth place on UCF’s career saves list with 191 saves. He compiled seven shutouts and a 1.69 goals allowed average over his 37 matches as a Knight.

Creavalle (2010-11) is embarking on his ninth season in the MLS and sixth as a midfielder for Philadelphia, recently having his contract exercised for 2020.

He has gathered five goals and seven assists over his career to this point and has played in nearly 8,000 minutes. The Union reached the postseason in 2019 as the third seed in the East and are looking to get on track for 2020 after their 0-1-1 start.

Creavalle was the team’s first All-American since 1997 when he was named to third team in 2010. The following season he was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watchlist.

Cal Jennings and Louis Perez are the only other Knight players to ever make the watchlist, joining Creavalle on the list in 2019. Creavalle was named to the All-Conference USA First Team and NSCAA All-South Region in both his seasons with UCF.

The MLS is Back tournament gets underway in Orlando on July 8 with the group stage, giving every club a chance to earn regular season points.

The knockout stage begins on July 25 and eventually leads to the final of the tournament on August 11. The winner of the tournament earns a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.

The regular season is set to continue after the conclusion of the in-season tournament. Each team in the MLS played two matches before the season was put on hold.

Below is a schedule of when Johnson and NYCFC as well as Creavalle and Philadelphia will return to action for group play. Their seasons resume against one another.

NYCFC
July 9 vs. Philadelphia Union 9:00 a.m. ET ESPN
July 14 at Orlando City 10:30 p.m. ET Twitter
July 19 vs. Chicago Fire 8:00 p.m. ET FS1

Philadelphia Union
July 9 at NYCFC 9:00 a.m. ET ESPN
July 14 vs. Nashville 8:00 p.m. ET Twitter
July 19 vs. Inter Miami 10:30 p.m. ET FS1

The league has been split into eight different groups for the remainder of the regular season which will see the teams play in 16 matches.

Knights in the USL Championship
The Knights have four active players and one active coach in the USL Championship. Their season is set to kick off July 11 in a bit of a different format.

The league has been split into eight different groups for the remainder of the regular season which will see the teams play in 16 matches.

12 of those 16 regular-season matches will be within the team’s specific group with the other four coming against teams in a similar geographic region. Any matches that came prior to the league’s early March shutdown will count towards a team’s 16-game slate.

Jonathan Dean (2016-19), the most recent UCF alumnus finds himself with the Birmingham Legion after being selected by Orlando City during the second round of the MLS SuperDraft.

The two-time Knight captain will be playing in Group G for the remainder of the season. Dean tallied six assists last season and played during every minute of the Black and Gold’s historic campaign. The Legion will resume their season on July 15 at 7:00 p.m. against Memphis 901 FC live on ESPN2.

Romario Williams (2012-14) finds himself starting 2020 with Miami FC after spending the last two seasons at the MLS level, most recently with the Columbus Crew.

In total, Williams has played in 28 matches over his four seasons at the highest level of American soccer. Williams was selected as the No. 3 overall pick in 2015 by the Montreal Impact, the highest a Knight has ever been taken in the MLS SuperDraft. Williams and Miami FC will restart the season in Group H.

During his run with UCF, he was named as the Offensive Player of the Year in 2013, the Black and Gold’s first season as part of The American. Miami FC will restart their season at home against the Charlotte Independence on July 22.

Hadji Barry (2014-15) was another first round pick out of UCF after being selected with the 13th pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. He’s collected two years of service time in the MLS and will be playing in his fourth season in the USL.

He begins the season with North Carolina FC in Group G. Just as Williams, Barry was also named The American’s Offensive Player of the Year, winning the award in 2015. North Carolina FC returns to the pitch on July 17 as they visit the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

Kevan George (2008-11) and the Charlotte Independence are also set to resume play in Group G. George has four years of experience in the MLS and is set to embark on his fifth at the USL level.

He was a two-time All-NSCAA South Region winner and a three-time All-Conference USA First Team member. George scored the game winning goal in double overtime in UCF’s NCAA Tournament First Round victory in 2011 over FGCU. Charlotte is set to return to action on July 22 as they visit Miami FC.

Ryan Roushandel (2008) moves his career from playing to coaching in the USL with San Antonio FC. He played for them in the final year of his career and is now an assistant coach with the team.

Matias Pyysalo (2014-17) and Deshorn Brown (2012) are the lone Knights active internationally. Pyssalo returns with Kickers Offenbach in Regionalliga Sudwest while Brown finds himself in the Indian Super League with Bengaluru after four seasons in the MLS and three in the USL.

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