Former Pitt forward Edward Kizza was selected by the New England Revolution in the first round of the 2021 MLS draft on Thursday afternoon. The Ugandan striker was chosen with the 24th overall pick, becoming Pitt’s first-ever first-round draft pick and just the third Pitt alum to be drafted into the top professional soccer league in the United States.
Prior to Kizza, Pitt placed former Panthers midfielders Pol Planellas and Javi Perez in the league as members of the Los Angeles Football Club. Planellas was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft with the 24th overall pick, and Perez was taken in the third round of the 2019 draft with the 64th overall pick. However, Planellas did not make it out of the preseason in Los Angeles, and Perez saw his career derailed by injury issues.
With that said, Kizza may well be the most promising prospect Pitt has ever produced, and as a result, he could enjoy a longer professional career than his predecessors.
Despite cutting his college career short with an abrupt departure from Pitt prior to the start of the 2020 season, Kizza became the second-most prolific scorer in program history, with 31 career goals. He also posted the third-highest single-season goal total in Pitt's history, with 15 goals in 2018, and solidified his status as a program legend in just three seasons.
As a freshman in 2017, Kizza posted a modest four goals and three assists in 15 games. But in 2018, Kizza reached new heights and forced the nation to take notice, as he scored 15 goals in 18 games and earned first-team All-ACC honors for his breakout campaign. Kizza would follow that up with a more well-rounded 12-goal, four-assist performance in 2019, which also earned him a first-team All-ACC nod.
Before Kizza’s arrival, Pitt was a struggling program in over its head in the competitive ACC, and its 2016 record, an abysmal 2-13-3 mark, reflected that reality. However, Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich, who was in his first year in Pittsburgh at the time, was not content with the program’s performance and recruited Kizza as the workhorse he would build around.
Kizza rewarded Vidovich’s faith in him, as he led Pitt to its first winning record in over a decade in 2019. That year, the team went 10-8-2 and earned an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 1965. And in the NCAA tournament, Pitt knocked off Lehigh in convincing fashion before losing to eventual champion Georgetown in the second round.
The Ugandan star’s influence on Pitt lived on in 2020, as a Panthers team with more talent and depth than ever took the nation by storm and earned its first No. 1 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches poll. Pitt would hold that rank until suffering its first loss of the season to No. 2 Clemson in the ACC championship.
In New England, Kizza will join a team that finished 15th in the league and eighth in its conference in 2020, with an 8-7-8 record and 32 points. However, that record was enough to earn the Revolution a playoff berth, and the team made a deep run that ended with a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, the eventual league champions, in the Eastern Conference final.
Provided Kizza's game translates well to the professional level, his scoring prowess could give a major boost to a New England team whose most prolific contributor, Teal Bunbury, netted just eight goals in 22 outings in 2020. But to earn that opportunity with the Revolution, Kizza will have to make it through the preseason and secure a roster spot.