Forward Madison on Friday announced that forward Mauro Cichero and winger Stephen Payne will return for the 2024 season.
The 6’5″ Cichero appeared in 28 games in his first season with the Flamingos, starting 15, and recorded two goals, one assist, and a passing accuracy of 72.5%.
“Mauro has key qualities that we like in our player profiles at Forward Madison,” Head Coach Matt Glaeser said in a statement. “He’s versatile, skilled, and intelligent while also bringing experience from the USL Championship. We expect Mauro to use his experience and quality to push for significant contributions in 2024.”
Before Forward Madison, Cichero was selected 29th overall in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and joined the Charleston Battery in the USL League Championship. In three seasons, he played 38 games, recorded five goals and four assists, and helped the team advance in the playoffs during his first year.
Payne played a crucial role as right back for the ‘Mingos, starting in all 33 matches of the season. Payne finished the season with 40 clearances, 32 interceptions and 33 tackles, and contributed on the attack with five assists and three goals. Most memorably, he scored the 90th minute, game-winning goal against Chattanooga late in the season to keep Forward in the playoff hunt.
“Stephen is a strong two-way player in the league who encompasses the qualities that we like in our wide players,” Glaeser said in a statement. “He is hard working, durable and good going forward. We anticipate Stephen to be a big contributor to our 2024 ambitions and are pleased to bring him back to the club.”
After playing college soccer for UCLA, Payne spent brief stints with lower-division Portuguese teams, including Varzim S.C., Portimonense S.C., C.D Mafra, and Vilaverdense F.C. Then in 2022, Payne decided to come back to the States to play for Richmond, where he helped the Kickers become the 2022 USL League One Regular Season Champions.
Forward Madison announced eight returning players on Monday.