Sporting Director & Men’s Head Coach Eric Rudland has helped push on a number of professionals including domestic and international opportunities. There are sixteen members of the AFC Ann Arbor family that are playing professionally this fall, including at least one player from every season.
Stanley Joseph Okumu -- IF Elfsborg (Sweden, Allsvenskan): The winner of the 2018 NPSL Player of the Year award, Okumu is much loved in Ann Arbor despite spending just a season with AFCAA. The dominating center back made the move from The Mighty Oak to Real Monarchs after the postseason in 2018, but after a standout performance at the 2019 AFCON Okumu made a move to the top division Swedish side. After playing against the likes of Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) and Sadio Mane (Senegal) over the summer, he will now be in the top-tier of Swedish football in hopes of playing those same European elites in European competitions soon.
Jack Cawley -- Concord Rangers (England, National League South): Back in his native England, ‘Captain Jack’ is applying his trade in Southeast England for the sixth-tier side, just a couple steps off the Football League in England. Rangers have staked a claim early for a promotion playoff place and Cawley has been key to the side, regularly featuring as LCB for the side. With the regular season getting into the meat of the schedule and FA Cup qualifying set to begin for the side, Cawley is hoping to feature for a side that is on the rise in the English pyramid.
Serge Gamwanya -- Melhus Football Club (Norway, 3. divisjon): Coming to AFCAA for the 2018 season from Stony Brook, Gamwanya is applying his trade over in Norway over the course of this season. Melhus play in the fourth tier of the Norwegian football pyramid and this serves as a return home for the Norwegian midfielder. An instant hit for The Mighty Oak in his lone season of participation with the club, he will be fondly remembered for not only helping establish the Stony Brook pipeline, but his hard work in midfield whether as a attacking-minded midfielder, or a more defensive one.
Chris Odhiambo -- KCB Football Club (Kenya): Odhiambo served as the key number nine for The Mighty Oak in 2018 by the end of the season, and since then he has returned to Kenya to provide his skills to the pitch there. Coming over to the States with countrymate Okumu was a massive undertaking for the much-loved striker. Winning fans over with hard work and determined pressing ability on opposing back-lines, his game-winning goal in Keyworth Stadium against Detroit City helped to make sure he would go down as a club hero in his season with The Mighty Oak.
Mike Novotny -- Hartford Athletic: After having played with Stode IF in Sweden, his successes with the Swedish side, along with his 2018 in Ann Arbor, have helped translate over into a spot with USL Championship side Hartford Athletic. With Okumu’s exit to Elfsborg, Novotny is currently the AFCAA alum that sits the highest in the American soccer pyramid with second-tier Hartford. A long and well-traveled road has seen Novotny excel at each of his stops. The hope is that, with a superb coaching staff and strong keeper talent to keep Novotny competitive in training, he will continue to improve as a keeper.
USL League One:
Lars Eckenrode, Kaleb Jackson -- Tormenta FC: Eckenrode and Jackson have differing backgrounds that led them to Ann Arbor, but both are currently once again at the same stage of their journey. Eckenrode, a product of the D.C. area, played at the University of Michigan and became the first ever AFCAA alum to get drafted in the MLS. Jackson is a native of St. Louis and played at Rockhurst. The ever-solid in defense Eckenrode spent 2015 and 2016 with the club while the goal-scoring Jackson spent 2017 in Ann Arbor and terrorized the defenses of the Great Lakes with his attacking prowess.
Steven Hernandez -- Orlando City B: A member of the 2017 team, Hernandez made the jump this past season to the Orlando City organization. The midfielder has featured heavily in the ‘B’ team’s side having caught the eyes of Orlando after a successful season in Ann Arbor followed up with a USL League Two/PDL runner-up finish with Reading United. As Hernandez continues to feature for the U-23/B side of the club, the hope is that the next step of progression can see Hernandez carving his way into the MLS side’s regular line-up.
Dario Suarez, Hector Morales -- Miami FC: Ann Arbor’s favorite Cubans featured with back-to-back NPSL Champions Miami FC in 2018 and 2019. They will be joining the club as Miami begin play with NISA here in late-2019. Two-thirds of the feared ‘El Tridente’ attack, Suarez and Morales were instant club legends known for their goal-scoring and Cuban camaraderie. Suarez finished second in goals for Miami with eleven goals in 2019 in seventeen appearances (eleven starts). Morales finished with a pair of goals and five assists over thirteen appearances (six starts).
Sergio Campbell, Jake Rufe, Ian McGrane -- Stumptown Athletic: One of the newly-founded teams in the wake of NISA’s creation, Stumptown have scooped up a trio of AFCAA alum. Campbell, known for featuring in the MLS as well as the Jamaican National Team, joins as a veteran presence in defense. A member of the 2018 side, he was also awarded the inaugural Boyzzz Khumalo Award at the end of the season. Rufe won this season’s COYMO Award, showing that Stumptown are taking a good, hard look at the sort of leadership traits these AFCAA Family members have to offer. Finally, McGrane, after an impressive first season with the club, has been able to make the jump following a stellar collegiate career and year at the club level to a professional opportunity.
Matt Braem, Will Eskay -- Harrisburg Heat: Team MVP ‘Frenchy’ and 2019 newcomer Eskay will be returning to Harrisburg for their second indoor seasons both together and as professionals. An icon within the club, Braem learned plenty as was apparent on the pitch in 2019 from his experience in the faster-paced indoor soccer environment. Eskay was a versatile attacker for AFCAA in 2019 as well and he forced teams to worry about him challenging them from multiple positions as an attacker. Eskay played in all 24 games for Harrisburg last season and, despite being playing a more defensive role in the arena game than on the outdoor pitch, he still scored eleven goals in the high-octane sport. Braem chipped in four goals and five assists over his thirteen games played from his much deeper role.
Sam Zisette -- Tacoma Stars: Zisette spent the 2017 season with The Mighty Oak and was able to turn that experience into an opportunity with Tacoma Stars in his native Washington. A graduate of Puget Sound University, he came to Ann Arbor following the finishing of a successful four-year campaign. A former Seattle Sounders youth player, his versatility has made him a great option in midfield and defense at the indoor level. Fans will remember him fondly for earning the second ever Strength in the Oak Award and being part of a defense that put together seven clean sheets in his lone campaign with the club.