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UCLA 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – UCLA
Conference – Pac-12
Coach – Jorge Salcedo (11th Season)

Background – The Bruins were 12-3-5 overall in 2013 with a 6-1-3 mark in conference play which was good for a second place finish behind Washington. They made their 31st consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and were awarded the number one seed for the first time since the 2003 season. The Bruins subsequently topped Elon 4-0 before being eliminated in a penalty kick shootout by Connecticut after the contest was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation and overtime. The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the contest with Connecticut but they uncharacteristically were unable to hold onto the lead making the outcome a particularly frustrating one for UCLA.  For all the success that the Bruns enjoyed in 2013, the way their season ended had to leave them with a bad taste in their mouths and wondering what might have been. Midfielder Leo Stolz was a consensus All-American, a MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist, and became the third consecutive Bruin to be named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. At the conclusion of the season Bruin Assistant Coach Eddie Soto, who served in that capacity for eight seasons at UCLA, was named the head coach at the University of San Francisco.   

Offense – Stolz will again be at the heart of the Bruin attack.  No player will be under a bigger spotlight heading into the 2014 season than Stolz who took his game to a much higher level last year. He did a lot of everything last year for the Bruins and did it well. No player has the potential to have a greater impact on his team's success in 2014 than he does. The biggest question mark and clearly a key to UCLA's success on the offensive side of the ball in 2014 will be the extent to which others are able to add balance to the the attack and take some of the offensive pressure off Stolz. Junior transfer Larry Ndjock, who comes to Westwood after two very productive seasons at the University of Loyola Maryland, is the most likely candidate to make an immediate contribution to the attack as the high forward.  He is clearly a goal scorer but the obvious question is how Ndjock will fare against the defenders he will face as a Bruin as compared to what he has experienced the past two seasons. Time will tell.  Incoming freshmen Abu Danladi, Christian Chavez, and Seyl Adekoya have the skill, athletic ability, and the physicality, to compete for playing time up-top but they face a learning curve.  Senior Andrew Tusaazemajja and sophomore Gage Zerboni (4g, 2a) are among returning forwards who also figure to be in the mix. Sophomore Brian Iloski (1g, 1a), who missed a large portion of the 2013 season due to injury, is now healthy and expected to make a much larger contribution to the offense in 2014 either in the midfield or up-top.  Sophomore Willie Raygoza, who missed almost the entire 2013 season due to injury, is now also healthy and should contribute as an attacking midfielder.  Junior Jordan Vale (2g, 5a) and sophomore Felix Vobejda (1g, 4a) are very talented outside midfielders who should benefit from the year of experience they gained last year.  Both are very capable high energy players with the ability to make an impact and add an additional dimension to the offense.   

Defense –  The Bruins will miss center back Joe Sofia and the leadership he provided. Sofia was a four year starter.  Aaron Simmons, a 2013 All-Pac 12 Second Team selection will likely anchor the Bruin defense at the center back position in 2014 after playing as a defensive midfielder in 2013.  Sophomore center back Michael Amik, a College Soccer News First Team All-Freshman selection, will also play a key role in the Bruin defense.  Sophomore Nathan Smith and junior Javan Torre will also figure prominently in the back.  Junior Grady Howe looks to be well position to assume the defensive midfieder role. Incoming freshman William Cline should also compete for playing time as a defensive midfielder.  Highly regarded freshmen John Requejo Jr. and Chase Gasper are left sided players who should also be in the mix.  Requejo could see time as a left back or left midfielder.  Gasper will likely compete for the left back role.  Senior Earl Edwards Jr., a 2013 All-Pac-12 First Team selection, returns in goal with two years of starting experience under his belt.  Edwards, a team captain, is among the top keepers in the country and will provide leadership.    

Newcomers –  Five Star Recruiting Class 

Coach Salcedo stated, "I am obviously very excited about this group and look forward to integrating each of them in our system and style of play. The electric pace that will come from the attacking players in this group will add a dimension that will allow us to vary the way we attack teams  Our current group coupled with the incoming freshmen class gives us a very talented group for 2014." 

Larry Ndjock – Junior – Forward – Berlin, Germany – Julius-Leber-Schule – Transfer from Loyola University Maryland.  MAAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2012. 2012 All-MAAC First Team selection.  2013 All-Patriot League Second Team selection. Scored 25 goal in two year tenure at Loyola Maryland.  

Seyi Adekoya – Forward – Seattle, Washington – Lakeside School – Played for the Seattle Sounders Academy.  Netted 26 goals and 11 assists in the year high school tenure.  First Team WSSCA 3A All-State selection.

Christian Chavez – Forward – Fontana, Ca. – A. B. Miller High School – Played for the LA Galaxy Youth Academy – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 88 player in the class of 2014.  Trained with the U.S. Youth National Team.

William Cline – Midfield – Irvine, Ca. – University High School – Played with the Pateadores Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 115 player in the class of 2014.  Trained with the U.S. Youth National Team.  Played club team Bristol F.C. in England in 2012.  U.S. Region IV team.  

Abu Danladi – Forward – Takoradi, Ghana – Dunn High School – Played with the Santa Barbara Soccer Club.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 22 player in the class of 2014.  All-CIP in 2012 and 2013.  

Chase Gasper – Defender – Alexandria, Va. – Gonzaga College High School – Played for Bethesda Olney Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 33 player in the class of 2014.  Member of the U.S. U-18 National Team.  

John Requejo Jr. – Carpinteria, Ca. Carpinterla High School – Played for Real SoCal. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 2 player in the class of 2014. Member of U.S. U-14, U-15, U-17, U-18, U-20 National Teams. Two-time NSCAA Youth All-America selection.  

Joab Santoyo – Midfield – Chino Hills, Ca. – A.B. Miller High School – Played with Arsenal FC Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 65 player in the class of 2014.  Played with U.S. U-14 and U-15 Youth National Teams.  

Prognosis for 2014 – Saving goodby to seven seniors including starters forward Victor Chavez (8g, 7a), midfielder Victor Munoz (1g, 8a) and defender Joe Sofia (1g, 0a) as well as Stolz (11g, 8a) would have been a tall task at UCLA.  However, that turned out not to be the case when Stolz turned down a MLS Generation adidas contract and elected to come back for his senior season. It is also a big plus that another blockbuster recruiting class is headed to Westwood that includes six players ranked by College Soccer News as among the top 150 recruits in the class of 2014 in addition to junior transfer Ndjock who looks to be a perfect fit for an up-tempo Bruin attack. The Bruins have been and will continue to be a possession oriented team with an up-tempo pace. In order for that style of of play to really click everyone on the pitch has to be on the same page, make the right runs, and anticipate a pass or two ahead.  That does not happen overnight.  As a result one of the critical success factors facing the Bruins in 2014 will be their ability to merge their returning linkmen with the newcomers like Nordick and Danladi among ohers who will be counted on to contribute to the attack up-top.  The Bruins will also have another very challenging non-conference schedule that includes contests with North Carolina, Wake Forest, New Mexico, and UC Santa Barbara on the road.  In addition, the Pac-12 will again be extremely difficult in 2014 with no easy matches.  The goal at UCLA is always to win the the Pac-12 title and the National Championship.  With a solid core core of returning players, a spine consisting of Edwards, Amick, Simmons, Howe and Stolz that may be the best in the country, another impressive recruiting class on the way to Westwood, and a team that should feel that they have unfinished business to take care of, the Bruins will head into the 2014 season as a frontrunner for the Pac-12 title and a legitimate contender for the National Championship.   


Posted in 2014 Team Reviews

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