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College star Levonte Johnson among ex-L1O players drafted to MLS

By League1 Ontario staff, 12/22/22, 9:30AM EST


Former Master’s FA player Levonte Johnson, who was a semifinalist for the highest honor in college soccer, has joined Vancouver Whitecaps.

Master's FA 2022 Men's Premier Division team

Master's FA 2022 Men's Premier Division team

Levonte Johnson was selected by Vancouver Whitecaps as the 29th overall pick in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Wednesday, December 21.

The forward from Brampton played for Master’s FA in League1 Ontario as a teenager in 2016, featuring 15 times in the Men’s Premier Division, and was a semifinalist for this year’s MAC Hermann Trophy after an impressive senior season in college soccer. United Soccer Coaches also made him a first-team All-American.

With Johnson having been on the MLS radar for several years, Vancouver Whitecaps are the team who have now acquired his talent. They finished ninth in the Western Conference standings this year.

Also successful in last night's draft was former Woodbridge Strikers forward Stephen Afrifa-Kodua, selected as the eigth overall pick by Sporting Kansas City. Midfielder Malcolm Johnston, who played for Vaughan Azzurri in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, was then selected by 2021 MLS Cup champions New York City FC, and former Toronto FC III defender Salvatore Mazzaferro will link up with Austin FC after he was chosen in the third round.

Johnson was the leading scorer for Syracuse University this year with 10 goals, transferring to the Orange after playing in east, west and central states as well as in England.

“When I first met Levonte, he was an active part of the indoor Spanish league which is huge for Canadian children aged six and up,” said Master’s FA technical director Junior Groves, who was an influential part of Johnson’s development.

“My academy team played against Levonte’s team in practice, and based on the talent I saw, me and his dad agreed that he needed to train in a more structured environment to go to the next level. Coming to Master’s was a perfect fit for him to develop on and off the field.

“When Levonte came over aged eight, he was the only kid I had seen that was born with a number nine on his back. He ran off defence as if he was a professional player, always ensuring he was onside while opening his body to the goal.

“He grew up training with older players and learned the game as well as playing it – doing video and whiteboard sessions and putting it into practice on the field.

“He has an innate ability to play that position, with power, finesse and confidence to take the ball past players. But he would walk off the field and you would never know; he’s the nicest guy.

“You can hardly get a word out of him, but you always get a smile from him. He exudes a peaceful, great nature in terms of dealing with everybody.”

Washington-based college Syracuse has a platform for success; Canadian FIFA World Cup winger Tajon Buchanan is a former Orange and Sigma player and was picked ninth overall in 2019 by New England Revolution after showing his talents at the college.

Fellow L1O alumni Alistair Johnston - Malcolm's brother - and Ryan Raposo (another Syracuse player) were drafted for MLS in 2020; the former recently signed for Scottish club Celtic after his performances at the FIFA World Cup, and the latter has now made 65 regular-season appearances for Vancouver Whitecaps. Last year former Sigma centre-back Nathan Dossantos was drafted by Orlando City and currently plays professionally for Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Now Johnson, Afrifa-Kodua, Johnston, and Mazzaferro each have their chance.

“This is huge for League1 Ontario,” continued Groves. “What happens to all these talented kids since 2014 if L1O was not here?

“Now to see that these kids will have an opportunity to play at higher levels and on the world stage is kudos to L1O.

“I am extremely proud of Levonte because I’m not just a coach to him, but a soccer dad.

“To play him at the highest level would be the best thing for him – he’s trained for it, studied for it, and has the will to carry on even if he’s being shut down. Combine his talent with his character and supportive family, he has ingredients for success.

“And he is always welcome back to home. He can drive in and knows what time training is, and that’s no different for any of our players.”