Levonte Johnson looks to add to blue-chip soccer resume with MAC Hermann Trophy

Canadian forward Levonte Johnson has won wherever he's gone.

As a freshman, he helped Eastern Florida State College reach the first National Junior College Athletic Association championship game. Following the cancellation of the Titans' 2020 season due to COVID-19 and the departure of the coach, Johnson transferred to Salt Lake Community College and led the Bruins to their first NJCAA title.

He transferred to Seattle University and helped the Redhawks beat Grand Canyon in a penalty shootout to claim the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament championship before moving closer to home to play a key role in Syracuse's march to the NCAA College Cup title last month.

The 23-year-old from Brampton, Ont., capped off a stellar 2022 when the Vancouver Whitecaps selected him in the first round (29th overall) of the Dec. 21 MLS SuperDraft.

On Friday, Johnson can add to his blue-chip resume when the winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy is announced at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. The award is the top individual honour in NCAA Division I soccer.

Johnson is up against Creighton forward Duncan McGuire and Duke midfielder Peter Stroud.

Johnson and Stroud both made the United Soccer Coaches' all-America first team. McGuire earned second-team honours.

The three women's finalists are Notre Dame midfielder Korbin Albert, Duke forward Michelle Cooper and Florida State midfielder Jenna Nighswonger.

The finalists were chosen in voting by Division I men's soccer coaches.

Johnson earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honours in scoring 11 goals for Syracuse this season, eight of which were game-winners to lead the NCAA. He also contributed six assists, finishing second in the ACC in points and goals.

Johnson's 86th-minute goal gave Syracuse a 3-2 win over Creighton and sent the Orange to the NCAA final. He was also on target in the championship game in Cary, N.C., converting his spot kick as Syracuse defeated Indiana 7-6 in a penalty shootout after the match finished knotted at 2-2.

"He was terrific for us," said Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre. "He led the line, developed a terrific partnership with Nathan Opoku up front and between the two of them were a real headache (for opponents).

"What (Johnson) brought was a power and directness. And he scored big goals in big moments for us … We had a good group but he provided us that killing edge."

Johnson scored 40 goals and added 32 assists in 87 games over his collegiate career.

Johnson, who is Syracuse's second MAC Hermann Trophy finalist after former Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono in 2014, is up against elite competition.

McGuire led Division I in goals (23) and points (50), setting the Creighton single-season record for goals in the process.

Stroud is the first Duke finalist for the MAC Hermann since 2011 winner Andrew Wenger, who went first overall in the MLS SuperDraft that year to Montreal. Stroud is also the first player in ACC history to win back-to-back ACC Midfield of the Year honours.

Johnson was the fourth Canadian taken in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft after New Hampshire defender Moise Bambito (Colorado, third overall), Florida international forward Stephen Afrifa (Sporting Kansas City, eighth overall) and Maryland midfielder Malcolm Johnston (New York City FC, 26th)

McGuire went sixth overall to Orlando City in the MLS draft.

Stroud, a former member of the New York Red Bulls academy, is expected to sign a homegrown contract with the Red Bulls. His older brother Jared is with St. Louis City FC.

Edmonton forward Gloire Amanda, a forward with Oregon State who now plays professionally for Austria Klagenfurt, won the MAC Hermann Trophy in 2019.

Teal Bunbury (Akron, 2009) is the only other Canadian-born men's winner. The son of former Canadian international Alex Bunbury, Teal has lived in the United States since he was 10 and represents the U.S. internationally.

Canadians Kadeisha Buchanan (West Virginia, 2016) and Christine Sinclair (Portland, 2004 and '05) have won the women's award.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2023.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press