ST. LOUIS, MO – Five former St. Louis Scott Gallagher players realized a dream and are one step closer to playing professional soccer. Justin Bilyeu, Emir Alihodzic, Connor Sparrow, Vince Cicciarelli and Faik Hajdervic were all drafted during the 2016 MLS Super Draft.
“We are very proud and happy for the five former club players that were drafted in the MLS Super Draft.” said Kevin Kalish, boys Technical Director for SLSG Missouri. “Our mission is to be the best youth club in the country. Part of this goal is to provide opportunities and to help develop professional and international players at the highest level. Congratulations to all of the coaches that helped these young men throughout their soccer careers. We are excited to watch them play at the next level.”
Bilyeu, a defenseman from Southern Illinois – Edwardsville, was drafted 18 overall by the New York Red Bulls. Justin was a 2015 Preseason All-Missouri Valley Conference selection and named to the All-West Region team as announced by the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA). “It’s incredible. It’s what I’ve dreamed of and being able to watch the draft with my family was special and I’m thankful to be going to such a great organization.” Bilyeu explained. “I can’t thank St. Louis Scott Gallagher enough for developing me as a player. Tim Leonard, Kevin Kalish, Kip Thompson and even Tommy Howe basically developed me into who I am today and I can’t thank them enough for all the coaching and advice on and off the field.”
Alihodzic, a midfielder from Nebraska – Omaha, was drafted 54 overall to the Seattle Sounders. While at UNO, Alihodzic appeared in 65 games and totaled eight goals, four of which came during his senior season, and three assists. “It feels great to be drafted. It means I’ve accomplished something I’ve been trying to accomplish my whole life. It was hard but it’s only going to get harder now.” Alihodzic said. “I started with SLSG when I was 15 or 16 and from then on I really developed into a player. They have great coaching that developed me and taught me about the game, not only on the field, but off it as well.”
Cicciarelli, a forward from Saint Louis University was drafted 60 overall by the Columbus Crew. Prior to playing his senior season at SLU, Cicciarelli played for Notre Dame from 2011-2014. In 59 career matches, he managed 13 goals and five assists. “Being drafted is an incredible opportunity and the first step toward a professional career. I know there is a lot more to be done but I’m excited to get the ball rolling.” said Cicciarelli. “St. Louis Scott Gallagher was instrumental for my career path. Without the club, I wouldn’t have made it to Notre Dame, let alone have the opportunity for a fifth season with SLU. Dale Schilly and Jeremy Alumbaugh taught me how to act like a professional soccer player and what it would take to succeed against the top level of competition in high school and beyond.”
Sparrow, a goalkeeper from Creighton, was drafted 65 overall by Real Salt Lake. During his career at Creighton, Sparrow helped lead the Bluejays to their first Big East regular season title in 2014 and had his squad one game away from the College Cup in 2015. Additionally, Sparrow was named NSCAA first team All-Great Lakes Region, Co-Big East Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and second team All-Big East Conference in 2015. “I’m one step closer to my dream of playing professionally. Obviously, I haven’t made the team yet but it’s motivating to know they’re giving me an opportunity to prove myself.” said Sparrow. “Gallagher was a serious and competitive environment for me, especially with the goalie training offered by Tim Kelly. He knew how to push me and taught me to never settle even if I did have a good game. There was always something I could do better.”
“It is a tremendous honor for St. Louis Scott Gallagher to have five of their former players drafted by the top domestic league in a single year.” explained SLSG Illinois Director of Coaching Blake Decker, who coached Cicciarelli and Hajdervic during their time in the club. “The dream to play professionally is one that is shared by many of our current players and the realization of that dream by past players only serves to motivate, inspire and drive the next generation of St. Louis Scott Gallagher players. The club is extremely proud of the accomplishments of these young men and grateful for the positive impact their achievements will have on future generations of St. Louis Scott Gallagher players.”
“We are most proud of these players, their recent accomplishments and how they represent SLSG.” Executive Director of the club, Pat Barry concluded. “Having five players drafted by MLS further proves that SLSG has created a culture and system that allows players at all skill levels to develop at their own pace, enjoy the game, develop on and off the field – and even possibly pursue their dreams of playing professional soccer. SLSG continues to produce players capable of playing at the highest level with more frequency than almost every club in the country. Congratulations to the players and their families on this tremendous achievement. We look forward to seeing them join the many SLSG alumni competing on the national soccer stage.”
St. Louis Scott Gallagher (SLSG) is the premier youth soccer club in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. For more than 30 years, SLSG has been developing soccer players at all skill levels. Tradition, Humility, Unity, Passion and Respect are the shield values that guide the development of all SLSG players both and off the field. For more information, visit: .