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UC Santa Barbara 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – UC Santa Barbara
Conference – Big West Conference
Coach – Tim Vom Steeg (16th Season)
Background – UC Santa Barbara was 12-6-3 overall in 2013 with an undefeated 7-0-3 mark in conference play.  The Gauchos began the season with a 4-4-0 record that included an unexpected loss to Gonzaga as well as losses to highly competitve UCLA, New Mexico, and Stanford but they regrouped and were unbeaten in their final eleven matches of the regular season. However, things didn't end as hoped for the Gauchos whose eleven match winning streak was halted with a 3-2 loss to Cal State Northridge in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament followed by a rare loss at Harder Stadium in NCAA Tournament play when the number ten seeded Gauchos were upset by number sixteen seeded Penn State 1-0. Under the guidance of head coach Tim Vom Steeg UC Santa Barbara has become a fixture in the NCAA Tournament and a force in the Big West Conference and on the national scene.  The Gauchos have earned an invite to the NCAA Tournament eleven out of the past twelve seasons and they won the national championship in 2006. They have also posted double-digit win seasons for the past thirteen years.  The program at UC Santa Barbara has also distinguished itself and received national acclaim for consistenly leading the country in attendance. The Gauchos set the NCAA attendance mark for the 2013 season when 12,805 fans were in attendance at Harder Stadium for the contest with Cal Poly.  The storyline at UC Santa Barbara entering the 2013 season was focused on the fact that the Gauchos returned six very experienced and talented seniors (Achille Campion, Fifi Baiden, Peter Schmetz, Goffin Boyoko, Daniel Welsh, and Matt Glodack) to the starting lineup.  While the six performed well in 2013 the unexpected storyline at UC Santa Barbara turned out to be the role of freshmen winger Ismaila Jome, midfielders Drew Murphy and Paul Ehmann, defender Nick DePuy and goalkeeper Josh McNeely who all played their way into the starting lineup and made significant contributions.  Forward Achille Campion, defender Peter Schmetz, and winger Ismaila Jome were 2013 All-Big West Conference First Team selections.  Jome was also named the Big West Freshman of the Year.  Midfielder Fifi Baiden was an All-Big West Conference Second Team selection.  Jome, defender Nick DePuy, midfielder Drew Murphy, and goalkeeper Josh McNeely were named to the 2013 Big West All-Freshman Team.        
Offense – With forward Achille Campion and his seven goals and eight assists and midfielder Fifi Baiden and his eight goals and three assists moving on due to graduation, some new faces are going to have to put the ball in the back of the net for the Gauchos in 2014. They will likely count on senior Reed McKenna (1g, 1a) and junior Charlie Miller (4g, 2a) to power the attack up-top although the pair will have to significantly up their production from last year.  Sophomore forward Armand Bogramyan (0g, 1a) also looks to be in the mix up-top.  Freshmen forwards Adonis Amaya and Ryo Fujii out of the LA Galaxy Academy, Ludwug Ahl from Stockholm, Sweden, Dalton Pando and Alex Liua out of the San Jose Earquakes Academy and Denis Kalamar who played for the Seattle Sounders Academy are among a very talented group of newcomers with the potential to immediately contribute to the offense. A solid core of midfielders returns led by super sophomores Ismaila Jome (2g, 7a), Paul Ehmann (0g, 1a) and Drew Murphy (1g, 8a). Senior Adis Islamovic (1g, 0a), juniors Adam Carn-Saferstein and Duncan Backus and sophomore Andy Perez are among other returning midfielders who look to pay a greater role in 2014. Freshman Axel Mendez who played for the LA Galaxy Academy is an attacking midfielder who could push for playing time in the midfield and add additional punch to the offense.     
Defense – The Gauchos were solid on the defensive side of the ball last year holding opponents to a total of only twenty goals.  Defense has been a problem at times in the past for U.C. Santa Barbara and the potential exists for a drop off in that area of the game in 2014 due to the graduation of backs Peter Schmetz (3g, 0a), Daniel Welsh (0g, 1a) and Matt Glodack (1g, 1a) and holding midfielder Fifi Baiden (1g, 1a). Sophomore Nick DePuy who had an impressive rookie season, senior Marshall Cazares (1g, 1a) who played in fifteen contests last year with five starts, senior Kevin Garcia -Lopez (1g, 3a) who played in fourteen contests with ten starts, and junior Brandon Brockway who saw action in seven matches with four starts in 2013 are among returning backs.  Freshmen Jeff Quezada who played with the LA Galaxy Academy and Julian Busch from Germany whose resume includes some very competitive international play are highly regarded and should challenge for playing time. The Gauchos face a learning curve on the defensive side of the ball which makes this an area of uncertainty heading into the 2014 season. Sophomore Josh McNeely returns in goal with the huge advantage of now having a year of starting experience under his belt.  Last year McNeely posted six shutouts and a goals against average of 0.83 but he had the advantage of having an expereinced group of backs to work with.  McNeely is a solid netminder but he may find the going a little more challenging in 2014.   

Newcomers – Five Star Recruiting Class – 

Coach Vom Steeg stated, "The 2014 recruiting class builds on the success of this year's freshman group.  All of the players in the group are freshmen, but they have played at the highest level of youth soccer.  This is also the most players we have signed who have spent time with the U.S. National Team"

Adonis Amaya – Midfielder – Los Angeles, California – Played for the LA Galaxy Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number sixteen player in the class of 2014.  

Axel Mendez – Midfielder – Los Angeles, California – Cathedral High School – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number fifty-one player in the class of 2014. Member of the U-14 and U-15 U.S. National Team.    

Jeff Quezada – Defender – Glendale, California – St. Francis HIgh School – Played for LA Galaxy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 125 player in the class of 2014.  Southern California ODP team.  

Dalton Pando – Forward – Sacramento, California – Played for San Jose Earthquakes Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the #69 player in the class of 2014.

Alex Liua – Forward – Los Altos, California – Played for the San Jose Earthquakes Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 120 player in the class of 2014.  

Denis Kalamar – Forward – Seattle, Washington – Shorewood HIgh School – Played with the Seattle Sounders Academy.  Washington ODP team member for three years.

Brandon Berke – Goalkeeper – San Carlos, California – Played for DeAnza Force SC. Served as team captain.  

Dugan Zier – Defender – New York, New York – Played for the Red Bulls Academy. Had trial with Italian side Inter Milan.  

Julian Busch – Defender – Eichenau, Germany – Played for 1860 Munich in the U-17 Bundesliga.  

Ludwig Ahl – Forward – Stockholm, Sween – Played for Alvsjo AIK and AIK Stockholm.

Ryan Fujii – Midfielder – Torrance, California – South High School – Played for the LA Galaxy Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 82 player in the class of 2014. 

Prognosis for 2014 – The Gauchos were a senior led team in 2013 but it also proved to be a year of development for the younger players.  Last year the Gauchos featured one of the strongest impact freshman groups in memory with five in starting roles. The experience the freshman class gained last year should give them an edge in 2014. UC Santa Barabara has also added a top notch eleven member 2014 recruiting class which was ranked by College Soccer News as the number seven class in the country. The 2014 class is made up of all freshmen. This is the second recruiting class in a row in which Vom Steeg has elected to bring in freshmen and develop them instead of going after experienced transfers to plug specific gaps. Inherent in that change in strategy is a transition period during which the Gauchos will have more than the ususal number of younger players on the pitch. If you had to pick one word to describe the Gauchos heading into the 2014 season it would most likely be young. Vom Steeg has indicated there will likely be a lot of underclassmen in the starting lineup in 2014. Senior Reed McKenna and junior Charlie Miller add experience up-top but they may be pushed hard for playing time by a talented group of freshmen that includes the likes of Adonis Amaya, Ryo Fujii and Dalton Pando. However, at this point there is no proven successor to Achille Campion up-top. Sophomores Ismaila Jome and Drew Murphy will be at the heart of what should be a very good group of midfielders. Freshman Axel Mendez is among the newcomers who should seriously contend for a starting role in the midfield.  Sophomore center back Nick DePuy will anchor a backline that is undergoing substantial renovations and is the biggest question mark heading into the 2014 season.  Sophomore Josh McNeely gives UC Santa Barbara an experienced presence between the pipes but he will not have the benefit he had last year of playing behind a group of veteran backs. The bar is always set high at U.C. Santa Barbara and 2014 will not be an exception. The Gauchos will be competitive but this is a team that may be a year away for having all the ingredients needed to be at a level equal to the vintage UC Santa Barbara teams.  Issues may develop early on due to lack of experience.  Much depends on the ability of the freshmen to make a smooth transition to the college game, on the extent to which the sophomores are able to up their level of play after having a year of experience under their belts, and on leadership from the upper classmen. This is a team that will no doubt improve as the season progresses and could have Harder Stadium rocking before it is all said and done.        


Posted in 2014 Team Reviews

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