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UCLA 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  UCLA 
Conference:  Pac-12
Coach:  Jorge Salcedo – 15th Season 
2017 Record:  7-10-1 – 4-6-0 in conference play 
2017 Final Season Ending Rank:  N/A
Key Personnel Losses from 2017 Team:  Midfielder Brian Iloski and forward Christian Chavez due to granduation.  Goalkeeper Kevin Silva due to transfer. 

Five Year Win Total:

2013:  12

2014:  14

2015:  11

2016:  11

2017:   7

2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  24 scored – 32 allowed 
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  1.33 scored – 1.78 allowed
2017 Key Statistic:  3-7-1 when playing away

Background:  UCLA is a tradition rich program.  The Bruins will begin their fifty-first season in men's soccer in 2018 with an overall record of 765-212-107. 

UCLA has appeared in the NCAA Tournament a total of forty-four times including thirty-four out of the last thrity-five seasons.  They have played for the national championship a total of nine times with the most recent being the 2014 season and have won the national championship four times (1985, 1990, 1997, 2002).  

UCLA has secured the Pac-12 title four times in the last ten seasons with the most recent being the 2011 and 2012 campaigns.   

Midfielder Brian Iloski and defender Erik Holt were 2017 All-Pac-12 First Team selections.  Midfielder Anderson Asiedu was named to the 2017 All-Pac-12 Second Team.  

Number Starters Slated to Return in 2018:  Eight 


Coach Salcedo stated, "The class is a dynamic and talented one, but most importantly they are players with competitive grit.  Each of them has qualities that will make our program better on and off the field."

Franuel Amaya – Midfielder – Santa Ana, California – Named to the U-19 Men's Youth National Team roster for the U.S. Soccer Men's YNT Summit Camp in January. Played for the Pateadores Academy. 

Justin Garces – Goalkeeper – Miami, Florida – Member of the U.S. Men's National Team for 2017 FIFA World Cup in India. Member U.S. U-17 roster for 2017 International Youth Tournament in Czech Republic. Played for Atlanta United Academy. 

Matthew Hundley – Midfielder – Littleton, Colorado – Named to U-19 Men's National Team roster for the YNT Summit Camp in January.  Played for Real Colorado Rapids Academy.

Mohammed Kamara – Forward – Monrovia, Liberia – Transfer from Tyler Junior College. Named the Junior College D1 National Player of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches.  2017 NJCAA Division I First Team All-Amercian. Netted forty-eight goals in 2017. 

Carlos Rincon – Midfielder – Los Angeles, California – Transfer from Santa Monica College where he scored ten goals in 2017. 

Cody Sundquist – Midfielder – Granite Bay, California – Selected to U.S. U-18 National Team camp.  Played for U-14 and U-15 National Teams.  Played for Fiorentina Youth Academy. 

AJ Vasquez – Defender – Mira Loma, California – Member of the U-17 Men's National Team. Played for FC Golden State Academy.  Named to U.S. U-17 National Team roster for 2017 International Youth Tournament in Czech Republic. 

Outlook for 2018 Season: That 2017 was a rebuilding season for the Bruins (five players left early to enter the professional ranks) was not entirely unexpected.  However the fact that UCLA only won seven games, concluded the season with four straight losses, and didn't earn an invite to the NCAA Tournament was unexpected.

As a result UCLA and head coach Jorge Salcedo will likely enter the 2018 season under the microscope with a sense of urgency not normally associated with the program.  Salcedo's coaching acumen will be challenged as he deals with the increased pressure and the expectations that inherently accompany a disappointing season.

The good news in that regard is that the Bruins will enter the 2018 campaign with a squad that looks much stronger than the young 2017 team that underachieved by UCLA standards. 

Last year the Bruins had more than the average number of freshmen in key roles who played significant minutes. The current sophomores now have a year of experience under their belts as well as the additional strength needed to provide the stamina required as the season progresses. In addition, Salcedo has done an excellent job of fortifying the roster with the addition of a seven member recruiting class that looks to be among the most talented in the country.  

Sophomores Santiago Herrera (3g, 1a) and Milan Iloski (3g,2a) are among returning forwards with the potential to blossom in 2018.  Redshirt juniors Blayne Martinez (2g, 1a) who saw action in eighteen contests with five starts last year and Robert Knights (0g, 1a) who appeared in five contests are among other returning players who will seek to play a greater role up-top in 2018. 

Junior transfer forward Mohammed Kamara  who helped Tyler Junior College secure back-to-back national championships during his tenure should add an additional dimension to the attack. Kamara is the type of player who can create scoring opportunities for himself and for others.  The unanswerred question is will he be able to make a smooth and quick transition to a different level of play?  

Salcedo has a lot of options in regard to how and where he utilizes his players which gives him a variety of lineup options. His ability to find the right combination and rotation early on looks to be a critical success factor for a team that needs to generate momentum that it can build on right out of the gate.  This task is made more difficult by the fact that UCLA traditionally faces a daunting schedule for which the margin of error is slight.

A solid contingent of midfielders led by senior Asiedu Anderson (2g, 2a) appear to be slated to return.  Junior Alex Knox (2g, 2a), sophomores Eirik Baekkelund (1g, 1a) and Andrew Paoli, and senior Kike Poleo are among other returning midfielders who look to be in the mix. Several of the newcomers should push for playing time in the midfield.

Senior Erik Holt, a two-year starter and team leader, will anchor the defense in the defensive midfielder or center back role. Outside backs sophomore Eric Iloski (1g, 1a) and redshirt junior Joah Santoyo (0g, 1a) and center backs redshirt junior Matthew Powell (2g, 0a) and sophomore Brandon Terwege who were starters last year also return.

The decision of Kevin Silva, a two-year starter in goal, to transfer means that the Bruins will have a new face between the pipes in 2018.  It remains to be seen how that will play out. 

The upcoming season looks to be a crossroad of sorts for the Bruins.
They seem poised to bounce back but for that to occur improvement will clearly be needed on both sides of the ball. 

Will UCLA gel early as a team, gain confidence and rebound, or will the downward tend continue?  With so many different factors involved that is a difficult question to answer at this point. 

Perhaps the single biggest factor in UCLA's quest to get back into the thick of the Pac-12 race and return to the NCAA Tournament field is the level of improvement of the current sophomores. Other factors include the ability of transfer Mohammed Kamara or another newcomer to provide an additional dimension to the attack, Salcedo's ability to find the combination and rotation of his players that will help put the Bruin players in the best position to succeed and the senior leadership and pace set by Erik Holt on the defensive side of the ball.  Last but certainly by no means least is the grit of this team.  

Posted in 2018 Team Reviews

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