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UCLA Men’s Soccer 2018 Season Preview

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Can the Bruins return to the postseason after missing the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1982?

UCLA defender Erik Holt returns for his senior season
Scott Chandler/uclabruins.com

Greetings, and welcome to Bruins Nation’s preview of the 2018 UCLA Men’s Soccer Team. The Bruins will need to rebound from a poor 2017 season that saw the team miss the postseason for the first time since 1982, snapping a streak of 34 straight postseason appearances.

Head Coach Jorge Salcedo, however, has brought in the #1 recruiting class in 2018 to bolster UCLA’s postseason chances this year.

The Bruins kick things off this year on Friday, August 24th, with a trip to Coastal Carolina at 4:30 p.m. PT. The Bruins will be tested on the east coast, as the Chanticleers made it to the round of 16 last postseason, with a 8-2-2 record at home. Coastal Carolina is ranked #18. Check back at BN on Friday for a preview of the Bruins’ first game of the season.

Today, let’s take a lot at the coach, the squad, and the prospects for the season.

HEAD COACH

Coach Salcedo needs the new guys to make an immediate impact, as fans were calling for his head as the team finished in spectacularly poor fashion last season. With a chance at the postseason still viable in late October, the Bruins finished the season with four straight losses by a combined score of 3-13. The Bruins finished in fourth place with a 4-6 conference record in the six team PAC 12, UCLA’s second consecutive 4-6 fourth place finish in conference.

The last two years have not fared much better. Although then #2 ranked UCLA made it to the College Cup Final in 2014, losing to #16 Virginia on penalties, the Bruins did not make it out of the second round of the NCAA postseason in ‘15 and ‘16.

Many, including several BN writers and regulars, myself included, called for Athletic Director Dan Guerrero to fire Coach Salcedo after last season’s losing campaign, but that did not happen and Coach Salcedo has returned for his 15th season and a very, very hot seat.

With so much talent at his disposal year in and year out, it is a shame that Coach Salcedo’s teams have not performed better. Losses to inferior teams and early exits in the postseason have become normal in Coach Salcedo’s tenure. He has only guided two squads to the College Cup (the “final four” of soccer) in fourteen seasons. That is not good enough at UCLA.

DEPARTURES

The oldest Iloski brother, Brian, who had himself and excellent UCLA career, has graduated and is now plying his trade in Slovokia, leaving his two younger brothers, Milan and Eric, as UCLA sophomores. The Bruins will miss the eldest Iloski’s scoring punch, as he led the Bruins in goals (6) and assists (3).

DIGRESSION: UCLA’s assist leader only had three assists in nineteen games? That tells you all you need to know about Coach Salcedo’s “tactics.”

Christian Chavez has also graduated.

UCLA’s starting goalkeeper in all its games from last season, Kevin Silva, has transferred to Rutgers and is no longer with the program.

RETURNING STARTERS

UCLA returns eight starters as well as several other players who saw significant playing time from a squad that went 7-10-1 in 2017.

Senior Erik Holt, expected to be a leader on the back line, has been named to the Mac Herman Watch List and the Preseason All PAC 12 team. Alex Knox and Matthew Powell, mainstays on UCLA’s back line, also return.

The aforementioned Milan Iloski as well as Santiago Herrara, both sophomore forwards, will look to find the back of the net for the Bruins. So will senior midfielder Anderson Asiedu, also named to the Preseason All PAC 12 team.

Sophomore midfielder, Andrew Paoli, has already made is presence felt in the preseason, scoring from well outside the box in the Bruins’ 1-0 win over UCI last Sunday.

NEW FACES

As previously mentioned, UCLA’s seven new arrivals were voted the top class in the country.

Two of them, UCLA freshman goalkeeper Justin Garces and freshman midfielder Matt Hundley, have been voted into Top Drawer Soccer’s Preseason Freshman Best XI.

Fresman AJ Vasquez, who has U-17 national team experience, will immediately complete for playing time on the back line.

Mohammed Kamara and Carlos Rincon, both junior college transfers are expected to make an immediate impact in the attach;

Rounding out the class are midfielders Franuel Amaya and Cody Sundquist.

WHO WILL BE IN THE NET?

With Silva’s departure, the only other ‘keeper with experience, senior Cole Martinez, played the last half of the last game of the season, a meaningless contest where UCLA was already trailing, 2-0 at the half.

This could pave the way for the freshman, Garces, who has extenstive national team experience with the U-17s and U-20s. As of this writing, however, Coach Salcedo has not named a starting keeper, with the aforementioned Martinez and sophomore Aristides Costeas also in the mix.

PRESEASON RANKINGS

UCLA is deservedly unranked in the preseason (2nd in “others receiving votes”). It would not be a surprise, however, to see the Bruins ranked if they can come back from South Carolina with a win on Friday.

SCHEDULE

UCLA plays each team in the six team PAC 12 Conference, including #1 ranked Stanford, two times, once at home and once on the road. The Bruins’ eight non-conference games are highlighted by road games at Coastal Carolina and at Maryland.

OUTLOOK

Every Jorge Salcedo coached team has the potential to contend for the national championship. Not necessarily win it year in and year out, but to make a deep run in the postseason. This team, although unranked, is no different. Unfortunately, Coach Salcedo’s teams have under performed in the past few seasons (not making the round of 16 is underperforming for this blue blood program). Maybe this team will be different. Until they prove it on the field, consider me a “Doubting Thomas.” I predict that UCLA makes the postseason, and flames out yet again in the second round.

It’s a wrap! I hope that you enjoyed BN’s UCLA Men’s Soccer Season Preview.

What do you think about the team’s prospects this season?

Sounds off in the comments below.

Go Bruins!