UIC’s Putna to play Major League Soccer; team wins league tournament
February 4, 2017

The Horizon League Tournament champion UIC Flames soccer team celebrated at a recent men’s basketball game at the UIC Pavilion.

Real Salt Lake selected University of Illinois at Chicago senior goalkeeper Andrew Putna with the 48th overall pick in the third round of the 2017 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, held Jan. 17.

“This is a very exciting opportunity,” said Putna. “I look forward to the new challenge ahead and can’t thank my coaching staff from UIC Soccer enough for the support over the past four years.”

A two-time Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year and All-League First Team honoree, Putna made a name for himself in his four seasons at UIC while helping the Flames to two regular season conference championships (2013, 2015) and one Horizon League Tournament title (2016) to span a career record of 41-24-8, with 30 shutouts.

“We are very excited for Andrew,” said UIC head coach Sean Phillips. “His body of work over the past four years, on and off the field, is deserving of this opportunity. Not only have his play and training habits contributed to three championships in four years, but his academic work has him on track to graduate in four years. I am sure he will represent himself and UIC well in the future.”

Putna tied the UIC record for most wins in a season as a freshman with 16 and additionally secured the fourth-best goals against average (GAA) in 2013 with a 0.79 mark. His ten shutouts that year tied for second in the league, while he tallied seven clean sheets in both 2015 and 2016 to rank fifth. In his career, he produced a 1.05 GAA, good for third, as his 214 saves rank fifth and 30 shutouts place second.

Putna also contributed on offense. He registered his first collegiate point as a sophomore after assisting on the game-winning goal against DePaul. He followed that up with four helpers his junior year, when he was one of 17 keepers in the nation to have an assist and was the only one in the group to have four.

The team earned the Horizon League Tournament championship in 2016 via a goal scored by Oscar Rivero with four minutes remaining to seal a 1-0 win over No. 1 Wright State on Nov. 12 at Alumni Field. With four minutes remaining, the Flames were granted a corner kick that Max Todd sent in and had connect with the head of Rivero to put the ball into the right corner of the net for the eventual game winner, his fourth of the year, as Todd picked up his ninth assist. With the win, the Flames earned the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Putna was a difference maker for the Flames as he came up with a season-high six saves on 13 shots faced to secure his seventh shutout of the season. Early in the second half, Wright State unleashed a flurry of shots, each one turned back by the Flames. At the conclusion of the match, Putna, Todd, and Oscar Gonzalez were named to the All-Tournament Team, while Rivero earned the title of Tournament MVP.

The tournament title is the fourth for the program (1999, 2000, 2007, 2016), and the Flames appeared in their sixth NCAA Tournament.

UIC soccer star Andrew Putna will play Major League Soccer for the Real Salt Lake team. He has been Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year twice.

“It was great to finally get the Horizon League Tournament Championship, especially for the senior class which was a big part of the perfect Horizon League regular season championship in 2013 and 6-1-2 Horizon League regular season championship in 2015,” said Phillips. “While I will always feel a regular season championship is an excellent trophy, the tournament still carries the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and opportunity to test yourself on the national stage.”

It was not an easy road for the Flames. The year began with a 1-5-1 record after the first seven games. They switched momentum in their favor, however, winning the next three over Drake, Green Bay, and Northern Kentucky, which led to eight wins in the last 13 games of the year.

“Many teams would have quit on a 1-5-1 start to the season,” Phillips said. “The players kept believing in themselves and working hard each day at training and in the matches until it started to come together.

“Our seniors and several other emerging leaders within the team led the way and kept things going in the right direction. It is a team of which the staff will always be proud for how they stuck together and ended the season as they did.”