California – Four Star Recruiting Class – The Golden Bears made noticeable strides forward last year finishing with an 8-7-3 overall record and 3-5-2 mark in Pac-12 play. Clearly a significant improvement over the 2011 campaign in which they were 3-9-5 overall with a 0-7-3 mark in conference play.
Winning appeared to have become a habit at California under head coach Kevin Grimes and the Golden Bears looked to be a perennial contender for the Pac-12 title when they earned nine consecutive NCAA tournament berths from 2001 through 2008. However with the exception of the 2010 season in which the Golden Bears secured their third Pac-12 title and advanced to the Elite Eight they have been absent from the NCAA tourney three out of the past four seasons.
California was picked to finish in second place in the 2012 Pac-12 preseason coaches poll despite the fact that they did not win a conference match in 2011. That choice was likely greatly influenced by reputation and the belief that Cal's blossoming young talent could take them back to the league’s upper echelon. Instead the Golden Bears finished the season in the number four spot behind UCLA, Washington, and Stanford.
With eight starters slated to return in 2013 there is reason to believe that Grimes will find a way for his team to play their way upward in the Pac-12 race and to contend for an NCAA tourney berth. However, in order for that to become a reality California will need to significantly improve on both sides of the ball. California finished in the number five spot in the six team Pac-12 last year in both goals scored (27) and goals allowed (28).
The Golden Bears will enter the 2013 season without the services of midfielders Tony Salciccia (5g, 6a)who was a First Team All-Pac 12 selection, Michael Munoz (1g, 1a) and Kyle Marsh (2g, 0a), defender Ted Jones, and forwards John Fitzpatrick (4g, 2a) and Kyle Lunt (2g, 1a) who have graduated.
Senior Luis Fuentes (2g, 0a) and junior Stefano Bonomo (5g, 0a) who had an impressive sophomore campaign are among returning players up-top. Fuentes who started five contests last year and Bonomo who had twelve starts last year are very capable goal scorers but both functioned primarily as role players in 2012. Both will likely be counted upon in 2013 to carry a much greater share of the offensive load. Grimes may also turn to freshman forward Christian Thierjung who is ranked by College Soccer News as among the top one-hundred players in the class of 2013 and freshman Nick Lima for offensive firepower.
Junior Seth Casiple (2g, 7a), an All-Pac 12 Second Team selection, who led the Golden Bears in assists last year and senior Alec Sundley (3g, 1a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons return to lead the way in the midfield. Juniors Connor Hallisey (0g, 2a) and Omid Jalali (1g, 0a) are among other returning midfielders who look to play a key role in 2013.
Senior Ryan Neil who was a Pac-12 Second Team selection returns to anchor the backline. Juniors Bobby Sekine and Christian Dean who were starters last year also return to give the Golden Bears a very solid and experienced back line. Steve Birnbaum, who sat out the 2012 campaign due to an early injury may also return which would be a huge plus for the California backline. Birnbaum was a 2012 College Soccer News Pre-Season All-America selection and a team leader. Redshirt juniors Ryan Moore and Dylan Serrano are among other backs slated to return who look to be in the mix in 2013. Redshirt junior Kevin Peach who had a 1.40 goals against average and was a 2012 Pac-12 Second Team selection returns to give the Golden Bears a solid presence in goal.
Grimes has built California into a successful program but he has his work cut out for him in trying to carve a place for the Golden Bears in the Pac-12 peeking order. Conventional wisdom in the Pac-12 says that UCLA will again be the team to beat with Washington, Stanford, and California battling for the second spot. The 2013 season could be a tipping point of sorts for the Golden Bears who will seek to keep pace with the programs at both Washington and Stanford that appear to be gaining momentum.
California has announced the addition of a very athletic and soccer savvy eight member recruiting class. As in the past all of the newcomers hail from the talent rich State of California. Grimes stated, “We are really excited with our 2013 recruiting class. These seven players fit perfectly into our team’s style of play and our program’s culture.” He added, “We expect to have more signings in the very near future.”
Chris Argueta – Defender – Norwalk, California – Cathedral High School – Played club for FC Golden State. Trained with the El Salvador U-17 National Team. MVP and captain of Golden State.
Randell Black – Goalkeeper – Santa Rosa , California – Pivot Charter School North Bay – Played for the San Jose Earthquakes Academy. Played for the Colo Colo U-18/20 clubs in Chile.
Matt Chasman – Midfielder – Laguna Niguel, California – Dana Hills High School – Plays for Strikers FC Academy. Southern California ODP Boys’ 94 Pool.
Nick Lima – Forward – Castro Valley, California – Castro Valley High School – Played club with the DeAnza Force. Also played club with the San Jose Earthquakes Academy. Region IV ODP team.
Trevor Long – Defender – Livermore, California – Granada High School – Played for San Jose Earthquakes Academy. Cal State North ODP team. Region IV Players Pool.
Tommy Padia – Midfielder – Newport Coast, California – Mater Dei High School – Played for Pateadores Academy. Captain of Mater Dei High School Team. All-Trinity First Team selection.
Christian Thierjung – Midfielder/Forward – Dove Canyon, California – Santa Margarita Catholic High School – Played for Strikers FC Academy. Ranked by CSN as the 85th player in the class of 2013.
Jose Carrera-Garcia – Midfielder – Ontario, California – Chaffey High School – Played for the Arsenal FC club in southern California. Named to the USSDA Best 11 of the Year in 2011-2012 while with Arsenal.