|Team – California
|Conference – Pac-12
|Coach – Kevin Grimes (15th Season)
|Background – The Golden Bears under the direction of Kevin Grimes have established that they are among the top programs on the west coast as well as in the country. They earned invites to the NCAA Tournament from 2001 through 2008 and in 2010 and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2005 and 2010. Historic is the word used frequently to describe the Golden Bears performance in 2013 in which they were 14-5-2 overall with a 6-3-1 mark in conference play. They came out of the gate strong in 2013 with huge season opening wins over Georgetown and Maryland and remained undefeated for thirteen contests during which time they were ranked for several weeks as the number one team in the country for the first time in the history of the program. In addition to the victories over Georgetown and Maryland, California recorded signature wins over UCLA and Stanford. The Golden Bears were awarded the number four seed in the NCAA Tournament and defeated Bradley and Coastal Carolina to advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in the history of the program where they lost a very close contest to Maryland 2-1. Defender Steve Birnbaum was an NSCAA and College Soccer News First Team All-American and a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist. Defender Christian Dean was a College Soccer News Third Team All-American. Three Golden Bears were selected in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft with Birnbaum the number two selection, Dean, who elected to sign a Generation adidas contract, the number three selection, and midfielder Ryan Neil the number eighteen pick. Grimes was named the NSCAA Far West Region Coach of the Year.
Offense – The Golden Bears will enter the 2014 season without defender Steve Birnbaum (10g, 1a) and midfielder Alec Sudly (9g, 2a) who were their top two goal scorers last year. Both Birnbaum and Sudly had a knack for coming up with clutch goals. Senior forward Stefano Bonomo (6g, 3a) who was a 2013 Pac-12 Second Team selection and sophomore forward/midfielder Christian Thierjung (2g, 0a) look to be key factors in the attack in 2014. Highly regarded freshman forward Paul Salcedo should also be in the mix for playing time up-top. Look for Bonomo to provide big play ability, expect continued growth and a greater contribution from Thierjung as he ups his playing time, and an immediate contribution from Salcedo. Sophomore Nick Lima who saw action in nineteen contests last year will also be in the mix up-top. Senior center midfielder Seth Casiple (2g, 7a), a 2013 All-Pac-12 Second Team selection for the past two seasons and the Pac-12 Freshman of the year in 2011, will be the guy who sets the pace on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Connor Hallisey (2g, 3a) who was a starter last year will also play a key role in the midfield in 2014. Seniors Max Oldham (1g, 2a), Omid Jalali (4g, 2a) and Bobby Sekine also return to give California a solid core of experienced midfielders. Redshirt junior midfielder Tyler Simkins is among other returning players who will seek to up their playing time in 2014. Newcomers Aravind Sivakumar and Eloi Vasquez who played with the De Anza Force Academy are promising additions and should add depth to the midfield.
|Defense – The biggest chore facing Califorinia heading into the 2014 season will be on the defensive side of the ball where they must replace center back Steve Birnbaum and defender/midfielder Ryan Neil due to graduation as well as center back Christian Dean who elected to forgo his senior season to enter the professional ranks. Redshirt senior Dylan Serrano (0g, 2a) and redshirt sophomore Mason Case (0g, 3a) who were starters last year provide a solid necleus around which to build. Sophomore Trevor Haberkorn who transfers in from Furman where he was a Second Team All-Southern Conference selection last year should slot in at the center back position. He is a prime timer and a huge late addition to the recruiting class. Freshmen Jorge Miranda and Ugo Rebecchini who hails from Rome, Itay should challenge for a starting spot in the back. California looks to be in good shape in goal with the return of redshirt senior Justin Taillole who was a 2013 Second Team All-Pac-12 selection and redshirt junior Alex Mangels.
Newcomers – Four Star Recruiting Class
Coach Grimes stated, "We are really excited with our 2014 recruiting class. These players fit perfectly into our team's style of play and our program's culture."
Marko Helfrich – Midfielder – Lafayette, California – Acalanes High School – Played club with De Anza Force Academy. Previously played for San Jose Earthquakes Academy.
Matt Locklear – Defender – Irvine, California – Northwood HIgh School – Played club for Strikers FC Academy. Three year starter at center- back. All-Pacific Coast Leaue as a freshman in high school..
Jorge Miranda – Defender – Van Nuys, California – El Camino Real Charter High School – Played club for Real So Cal Academy. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 41 player in the class of 2014. Member U.S. U-17 Mens's National Team.
Joshua Morton – Midfielder – Brentwood, California – Heritage High School – Played club for San Jose Earthquakes Academy. All-League selectioni as sophomore in high school. Region II State ODP Pool.
Ugo Rebecchini – Defender – Rome, Italy – Played club for FC Bologna of the Italian Championship Division Primavera. Played with AS Roma youth sides from 2008 through 2012.
Aravind Sivakumar – Midfielder – Cupertino, California – Monte Vista High School – Played club for De Anza Force Academy. ODP Region IV team member. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 142 player in the 2014 class.
Eloi Vasquez – Midfielder – San Rafael, California – Marin Academy – Played club for the De Anza Force Academy. Played club for Marin FC.
Paul Salcedo – Forward – Inglewood, California – Hawthorne High School – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 61 player in the class of 2014. Played for the Chivas USA U-18 Academy team. Previously played for the Strikers FC Academy.
Trevor Haberkorn – Defender – Keller, Texas – Keller High School – Sophomore transfer from Furman where he was a Second TeamAll-Conference selection. U-18 and U-20 U.S.National Team member. Solar Chelsea Academy Team.
Prognosis for 2014 – After two seasons of building (three wins in 2011 and eight wins in 2012) the Golden Bears turned a big corner last year. A noteable portion of last year's Elite Eight team, Steve Birnbaum, Christian Dean, Ryan Neil, Alex Sundly, and Luis Fuentes, are gone so players are going to have to step up at a number of positions. Replacing Birnbaum's scoring output will be hard enough. Even more difficult will be filling the void he left in the back and as a team leader. Despite the departures Grimes will have a lot of size and talent to work with. The Golden Bears will again have plenty of senior talent and leadership. Stefano Bonomo up-top, Seth Casiple and Connor Hallisey in the midfield, and Dylan Serrano in the back are among the members of a very solid senior class. California is among the top teams on the west coast and in the counry but the fact that they have been up and down over the past few years with Elite Eight appearances in 2010 and 2013 with two seasons without an invite to the NCAA Tourney sandwiched in between creates concern and makes them a difficult team to predict. Clearly some of the newcomers, Haberkorn, Miranda, and Salcedo in particular, will have the opporunity to contribute and their ability to do so may be the difference maker. No single team has a stranglehold on the Pac-12 heading into the 2014 season although UCLA will likely be considered the frontrunner. Washington, Stanford, and California will all be strong contenders which should make for an interesting and perhaps brutal conference race. The Golden Bears significantly exceeded expectations last year. What can California do for an encore in 2014? As it stands right now the talent needed to secure another NCAA Tournament berth is on board but any hope of equaling the success the program had last year will require a signficant contribution from some new faces. Meshing veteran players with newcomers is no easy task but Grimes has proven very adept at doing just that at times in the past.