Los Angeles Soccer: Eder Arreola
Eric Wynalda, one of the finest strikers America ever produced, has built a team somewhat in his own image, and it's taking on America's soccer establishment with impressive results.
Thousand Oaks' Cal FC, a collection of misfit players with undeniable talent, have already conquered two better-fancied clubs in the 99th edition of the U.S. Open Cup, and Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers, on Wednesday night, could be next.
Wynalda, a first-ballot National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee who played in three World Cups, starred in Germany and scored the first goal in MLS history, knows that it's possible.
“We didn't enter this competition because we thought this would be fun,” the former goal-getter from Westlake Village, known to a new generation of fans as an at-times acerbic commentator on Fox's soccer coverage, told ESPN Los Angeles. “We really have high hopes. We set goals, we achieve them and we re-set.”
Wynalda's got, as he puts it, “a bunch of guys that everybody knows who they are.” There's former UC Santa Barbara star Danny Barrera (Thousand Oaks/Westlake HS), who trialed with the Chicago Fire during MLS's preseason after a stint in Serbia. And there's Artur Aghasyan, who has played with Real Salt Lake and been on trial a couple of times with Chivas USA. And Richard Menjivar (Panorama City/Monroe HS), a Cal State Bakersfield standout who impressed with El Salvador's U-23s during CONCACAF's Olympic qualifiers.
UCLA alum Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS), who was drafted in January by the Houston Dynamo and trained with Chivas USA, is with the club. So is former Galaxy/L.A. Blues defender Mike Randolph (Chino Hills/Ayala HS) and Cesar Rivera (Pomona/Garey HS and Mt. San Antonio College), who led the Blues in scoring last year. And goalkeeper Derby Carrillo (La Mirada/St. John Bosco HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills), whom El Salvador's national team has targeted.
And hopefuls such as Danny's brother, Diego (Thousand Oaks HS/Loyola Marymount), former U.S. youth national-teamer Pablo Cruz (Azusa), defenders Hector Espinoza (Garden Grove/Santiago HS and Santa Ana College) and Beto Navarro, and others.
They're all good players who have been overlooked or dismissed or something, and Wynalda's goal is to showcase their talents and help them find paths to the professional careers he thinks they deserve.
That's the whole point of Cal FC, which grew out of Wynalda's experiences the past couple of years working with Mexican third-tier club Murcielagos, which employed for a time current Chivas USA forward Cesar Romero.
“I think the one thing I could say,” Wynalda said, “is I have a very high opinion of some of these guys, but I'm the minority when it comes to that. People just aren't seeing what I see.”
ONTARIO -- There were lot of familiar names on the turf at Ontario Soccer Park for Sunday morning's USASA regional title game, but the biggest name of all actually wasn't anywhere nearby.
Eric Wynalda, the former U.S. national team star and a first-ballot National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, had to follow his Cal FC team's clash with PSA Elite via constant text messaging while on the air in his main gig in West L.A., as studio analyst at Fox Soccer Channel.
The news he received wasn't good.
A missed penalty kick and a red card proved costly for Thousand Oaks-based Cal FC, which dropped a 2-0 decision to their Orange County-based foe in the U.S. Adult Soccer Association's Region IV championship.
PSA Elite, bolstered by players from Premier Development League power Orange County Blue Star, scored twice in the second half to qualify for the USASA National Cup final four July 20-22 at the Chicago Fire's Toyota Park.
The club from Irvine also got to choose its first-round opponent in the U.S. Open Cup -- well, perhaps -- and decided to play against PDL power Portland Timbers U-23 at Jeld-Wen Stadium, the Timbers' Major League Soccer team's home, in the May 15 opener. That sends Cal FC, which also qualified for the Open Cup, to play reigning PDL champion Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton, Wash.
U.S. Soccer, which runs the nearly 99-year-old tournament, has in the meantime scheduled a coin flip Monday to determine which team plays where.
Andrew Riemer scored in the 63rd minute and set up an 83rd-minute rocket by fellow Blue Star forward Christian Ramirez (Garden Grove/La Quinta HS and UC Santa Barbara/Concordia University).
“Oh, well,” Wynalda, Cal FC's head coach, messaged after he was informed of Ramirez's goal. “I have qualified [for the Open Cup]. Time to strengthen the squad.”
Both sides came in plenty capable.
The winners of both four-team groups will join the 64-team field, and the victor in the May 6 title game at Ontario Soccer Park will advance to the USASA National Cup final four in Chicago in mid-July.
Five of eight teams in the Region IV tournament are from Southern California, and they include Manhattan Beach's Doxa Italia, a Coast Soccer League power guided by former New England Revolution draft pick Derk Droze which won the Region IV title last year. The others are Thousand Oaks' Cal FC (La Gran Liga), Irvine's PSA Elite (Coast Soccer League) and OC Crew (United Premier Soccer League) and Los Angeles' The Internationalist (L.A. City Municipal Soccer League).
Cal FC's side is being put together by U.S. National Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda, who last weekend told ESPN Los Angeles it would include former UCLA star Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS), a Houston Dynamo draft pick in January, and former UC Santa Barbara star Danny Barrera (Thousand Oaks/Westlake HS), who played last fall in Serbia, spent time in MLS's preseason with Chicago and recently trialed in England.
Two Bay Area teams -- Redwood City's DV8 Defenders, who qualified for last year's Open Cup, and Pittsburg Galaxy FC -- and EP Elite, an El Paso, Texas, team representing New Mexico, also are in the Region IV field.
Five Southern California teams already are in the field for the 99th edition of America's oldest soccer tournament, which has been won by MLS clubs 15 of the past 16 years:
- MLS: Galaxy, Chivas USA
- USL Pro: L.A. Blues
- USL Premier Development League: Ventura County Fusion
- National Premier Soccer League: Fullerton Rangers
CARSON -- Eder Arreola is something of a sponge right now, soaking up every bit of knowledge and understanding he can find as he fights to make the Houston Dynamo's roster.
The winger from Chino Hills and UCLA, who went to the MLS Cup runner-up in last month's supplemental draft, is off to a good start, impressing with his touch and instincts, but he knows nothing is guaranteed. Arreola has not been offered a contract by the Dynamo, but if he keeps up his effort and performance the next couple of weeks or so, he could have something to sign before Houston's season kicks off March 11 against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center.
“We still have a little bit of time to go here. We have one more game [in Southern California] before we head back to Houston,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said after Arreola played the first 45 minutes in a 2-0 loss Sunday to the Portland Timbers at Home Depot Center. “We'll see what the roster's looking like. He's put himself in a good position to be talked about in a good way.”
Arreola, 20, a natural left-sided flank player, is looking to provide cover for star winger Brad Davis, who is pretty far along in rehabbing the torn quadriceps muscle that forced him out of the MLS Cup loss to the Galaxy. Colin Clark can do so, but he's looking to win the job on the right side.
There's plenty of mentors around, including Davis -- Major League Soccer's best winger and a league MVP finalist last season -- and Clark. Kinnear was a U.S. national team attacking midfielder, and assistant coach Steve Ralston, MLS's all-time assists leader, is among the finest flank players in league history.
“It's been a great experience getting together with the guys and playing against other MLS teams,” said Arreola, who started two of Houston's three HDC preseason matches. “I feel like I've taken a lot of information from coaches. They've been helping me, and the other players have really helped me out, just knowing my movements and little things like that.”
Kinnear likes what he's seen.
“Good feet. He's got a real nice first touch,” said the two-time MLS Cup-winning coach. “The level of competition has been a good test for him. I think he's good when he's getting [opposing] players one-on-one -- he can go at them, he can come inside. And he has a real good soccer brain, I think.”
CARSON -- Oswaldo Minda grew into a commanding central midfielder while with Deportivo Quito, where he won three Ecuadoran titles in four years before signing with Chivas USA in December.
His new club, of course, is strongly affiliated with the original Chivas -- Club Deportivo Guadalajara. The Goats are, more or less, under their big brother's umbrella.
So when Deportivo Quito plays Tuesday night at Guadalajara in a Copa Libertadores group opener, who is Minda cheering for?
“Oh, you're putting me on the spot here ...,” he said through a translator. “It's going to be a very dynamic game.
“Quito's bringing in a lot of young players. They're a team that's very dynamic, and this is a group that's been together for four or five seasons. I saw [Guadalajara] play against Morelia [on Saturday]. It's a team that unfortunately has a lot of problems -- they're very young, primarily. As time goes by, they'll bring it back. They'll be all right.”
Guadalajara is struggling -- winless in its first five matches in the Mexican Primera Division's second-half Clausura championship after posting the best regular-season record in the fall Apertura. Deportivo, with Minda, just won the Ecuadoran title, and it's making its fourth straight trip to South America's club championship (and seeking its first knockout-stage berth since 1989).
Minda says he'll be watching (Fox Deportes, 6 p.m.) with Ecuadoran friends, and that he hopes it's “a good show for everybody ... and that the best team wins.”
Rose was an early pick in the MLS Supplemental Draft, taken at No. 6 by Real Salt Lake, which promptly dealt UCLA's captain to the Seattle Sounders.
The Englishman, one of the most prominent players remaining on the board after 38 picks last week, was the first of four Bruins to go in quick succession in the supplemental, with left back Shawn Singh going to Sporting Kansas City with the 16th pick, winger Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS) to Houston at No. 18 and goalkeeper Brian Rowe to Chivas USA early in the second round.
That's six players drafted from UCLA's NCAA semifinal team -- New England's Kelyn Rowe and Philadelphia's Chandler Hoffman were first-round picks -- and there are several underclassmen likely to take the step in the next few years.
Rose was one of the real prizes available Tuesday.
“He's a player that we really like,” Seattle technical director Chris Henderson, a former UCLA star, told his team's website. “He's a two-way midfielder. He can also sit in as a holding midfielder, so he's pretty versatile. He seems, at a young age, to be a student of the game.”
He should be. He grew up in one of the most intense soccer cultures on the planet, and he can compare notes with former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, whose daughter dates Rose.
To get him, the Sounders gave up the rights to defender Leone Cruz, a former SMU standout drafted last year who failed to make the team.
Seattle draft selections included UC Santa Barbara defender Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS), the brother of D.C. United standout Chris Pontius, and Cal Poly defender Wes Feighner (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS).
They're the big names, but hardly the only ones, among local players aiming for an opportunity with a Major League Soccer team. There are nearly two dozen players who grew up or went to school in Greater Los Angeles hoping to hear their names called in Kansas City.
Some of them, let's be honest, don't have a shot, not with just two rounds of picks -- 38 in all. Next week's supplemental draft will provide possibilities, and players will be looking to participate in team combines and in trials during preseason training.
Some might look abroad -- there are leagues everywhere on the planet -- and there are two professional minor leagues (NASL, USL Pro) and several pro clubs in the Premier Development League and its rival NPSL.
Here's a quick rundown of 22 players who might find a job in MLS, if the right situation develops:
There are 16 players from L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties playing in the NCAA College Cup this weekend in Hoover, Ala.
Almost all of them, no surprise, play for UCLA. (And not all of them, to be fair, actually play.)
The number is impressive, given that the Bruins recruit nationally, with their biggest names coming from Alabama (Chandler Hoffman), Washington (Kelyn Rowe), Oregon (Brian Rowe) and England (Andy Rose).
UCLA's starting lineup includes a winger from Chino Hills (Eder Arreola), and two defenders and a forward from Orange County (Patrick Matchett, Joe Sofia and Reed Williams). Another starting back from Bakersfield, in Kern County, and the first forwards off the bench are from Fontana (Victor Chavez) and Calabasas (Evan Raynr).
Second-ranked Creighton has two local products, both starting midfielders, both juniors, both All-Missouri Valley Conference second-team selections: Dion Acoff (Upland/Damien HS) and Jose Gomez (Santa Ana/Century HS and Cal State Fullerton).
LOS ANGELES -- Chandler Hoffman was heading home to Birmingham, and he was bringing a couple dozen of his best college buddies with him.
They hope to return to L.A. with an NCAA trophy.
Hoffman, a sure-to-be All-American striker, leads UCLA into this weekend's College Cup men's soccer final four in Hoover, Ala., where the Bruins figure to be a fan favorite, with all of his family and friends filling seats.
“Man, my phone has been blowing up. Facebook has been blowing up,” Hoffman said as the Bruins prepared for Friday night's semifinal showdown with top-seeded North Carolina. “Everyone's excited to come out. It should be like a home game for UCLA.”
This is what Hoffman has envisioned since word arrived earlier this year that the College Cup would be played in Birmingham's suburbs. Now that it's here -- and the Bruins are there -- he can barely contain his excitement.
“I'm so waiting for someone to pinch me and wake up,” he said. “It just feels like a dream.”
That dream comes true if UCLA (18-4-1) overcomes the Tar Heels (20-2-2), then knocks off second-seeded Creighton (21-2-0) or Charlotte (16-4-3) in Sunday's final. It would be the fifth NCAA men's soccer title in school history, and it would fulfill Jorge Salcedo's dream, too.
The Bruins' head coach has been part of three UCLA titles -- as a ballboy in 1985, a freshman midfielder in 1990 and an assistant coach in 2002 -- and came close to winning another in his third season in charge of the program.
“It would mean so much,” said Salcedo, who played for four Major League Soccer clubs, including the Galaxy, and Morelia in Mexico. “I quietly always hope that it's going to happen, and now, once again, we have another chance. The loss [to UC Santa Barbara in the final] in 2006 left a bitter taste in my mouth, because we were a good team back then, I think ready to win a championship. But I think we're even more ready now as a program to win one.”
The Bruins have ample talent, extraordinary depth -- especially in attack -- and solid upperclass leadership, and there's that destiny thing at work, too. At least Hoffman believes so.
Four players looking to take UCLA to the NCAA men's soccer title next weekend have plans for next month. They're among 52 Division I college seniors invited to Major League Soccer's annual pre-draft Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The chosen Bruins are midfielders Eder Arreola and Andy Rose, defender Shawn Singh and goalkeeper Brian Rowe. Players from UC Irvine (forward Miguel Ibarra), Cal State Northridge (midfielder Rafael Garcia) and UC Santa Barbara (Luis Silva and James Kiffe) also are on the list announced Wednesday.
Two more UCLA players -- junior forward Chandler Hoffman and sophomore midfielder Kelyn Rowe -- would join the list if they sign Generation adidas contracts.
The Bruins meet North Carolina in an NCAA College Cup semifinal Friday night in Hoover, Ala. Three Tar Heels are on the combine list: defender Matt Hedges, midfielder Kirk Urso and forward Billy Schuler.
Creighton, which meets Charlotte in the other semifinal, received three invitations, for defender Andrew Duran, midfielder Greg Jordan and forward Ethan Finlay. No Charlotte player was invited.
The NCAA final is Sunday.
UCLA is headed to its 13th NCAA College Cup after Reed Williams' goal in overtime paid back Louisville for last year's quarterfinal thriller.
Williams (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS) scored 91 seconds into the second extra period to send the fourth-ranked (but 13th-seeded) Bruins (18-4-1) to next weekend's final four in Hoover, Ala., just outside Birmingham.
They'll face top-seeded North Carolina (20-2-2), a 2-0 winner over St. Mary's (11-7-5), in the semifinals. The other game will pair Sunday's winners, with third-seeded Connecticut (19-3-2) or Charlotte (16-4-2) facing second-seeded Creighton (20-2-0) or seventh-seeded South Florida (13-3-4). The game at Creighton was postponed by snow Saturday.
Williams fired from the top of the box through a thicket of defenders and inside the left post after Patrick Matchett (Laguna Niguel/Dana Hills HS) made a run from midfield, then played a give and go with Ryan Hollingshead on the right flank.
It led to a wild celebration for the Bruins, who watched two two-goal leads slip away and lost, 5-4, to Louisville in the closing seconds of last year's quarterfinal, which was played in a snowstorm.
This time, the conditions were mild -- low 50s drifting into the high 40s -- and UCLA did a superb job of absorbing pressure, pushing forward when the opportunity arrived, then forcing the issue once overtime arrived.
Louisville (14-7-2), which lost to Akron in last year's title game, had the better of the play much of the game but struggled to find chances when i got to the Bruins' box. All-American Chris Rolfe had several opportunities, but he fired high with an open shot in the 16th minute, poked the ball just wide of the right post while battling UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe in the 48th, then forced Rowe to parry a blast in the 85th.
That was all Rowe needed to tie a school record with his eighth straight shutout, extending his goal-less streak to 747 minutes, 40 seconds.
UCLA nearly tallied several times. A Fernando Monge header from a long throw-in by Joe Sofia (Dove Canyon/Mission Viejo HS) forced an early save from Cardinals goalkeeper Andre Boudreaux, who also made big stops on Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS) in the 75th minute and, with a diving save, on Williams' header just a minute before the goal.
In other men's action:
- Michael Salazar (Moreno Valley/Canyon Springs HS) scored twice, with the winner in the 81st minute, to lead Cal Baptist (17-5-1) past Geneva (Pa.), 2-1, in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association title game in Kissimmee, Fla. Salazar's 18th minute goal was answered by Jake McCracken's header eight minutes into the second half, and he netted the winner from a feed from Alex Anderson (Palmdale/Palmdale HS).
In women's action:Bernadette Witz (Temecula/Temecula Valley HS) scored just before halftime and again midway through the second half as Cal Baptist (18-2-1) rallied from an early deficit to beat Trinity International (Ill.), 2-1, and win the NCCAA championship in Kissimmee, Fla. The Lancers outshot TIU, 22-2, and took 14 corner kicks to none for their foe, but they were behind after Kelly Streekstra's long-distance drive in the 17th minute. Witz scored from a feed by Channing Perea (Riverside/Riverside Poly HS)'s feed to tie the score and from tournament MVP Fabiola da Silva's pass to net the winner.
Jorge Salcedo didn't want to look.
His UCLA men's soccer team had just secured a quarterfinal showdown at Louisville, the game every Bruin wanted, and what he remembered most from last year's classic was the snow.
No. 4 UCLA (17-4-1) seeks its 13th final-four appearance in the sport Saturday night with a rematch of one of the greatest NCAA games in history, any sport, and Salcedo will be happy to know no snow will greet his side.
“I'm afraid to [check the forecast],” he kidded last weekend, after the Bruins dominated Rutgers to claim the school's 20th elite-eight berth. “We'll see. We've had inclement weather [in Louisville], we had hot weather when we were there [for a season-opening rematch] in August.”
It doesn't matter, the weather.
“We'll play them in a barn, we'll play them anywhere,” Salcedo said. “We're just excited about the chance to play a good team.”
The forecast for Saturday in Louisville is a high of 61 and a low of 47, cloudy but nothing falling from the sky. That's a lot nicer than in last year's quarterfinals, when the Bruins didn't deal well with the snow and slush and surrendered three goals after taking a 3-1 lead, rallied to tie, then conceded in the final seconds of regulation for a 5-4 loss.
Salcedo's judgment: “One of the wildest matches I have ever been a part of.”
The eighth-ranked Waves (15-1-4) claimed their first conference title since 2002 when San Diego routed Santa Clara, 3-0, knocking the seventh-ranked Broncos from the top spot they wrested last weekend from Pepperdine.
San Diego (12-7-0), which was led by three Stephanie Ochs assists, also claimed a share of the crown, but Pepperdine wins the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament after beating the Toreros last month.
Santa Clara (13-2-5) fell to 6-1-1 in WCC play; USD and Pepperdine finished 7-1.
The Waves scored a 4-0 victory over San Francisco in Malibu, with Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) and Amanda LeCave scoring first-half goals and Karissa Garcia and Michelle Pao tallying after halftime.
In other women's action:
- Sydney Leroux scored her 15th and 16th goals and assisted two by freshman Sam Mewis as fourth-ranked UCLA (15-1-3) romped to a 5-2 win over USC (7-13-0) in front of 3,826 at Drake Stadium. Zakiya Bywaters had three assists for the Bruins, who finished second to Stanford in the Pacific 12 Conference.
The third-ranked Bruins posted their fourth straight shutout but struggled to create an attack and settled for a 0-0 draw Friday at Cal, the first blemish on their Pacific 12 Conference record.
The top-ranked Cardinal is next, in a game Sunday afternoon at 1,900-seat Cagan Stadium on Stanford's campus. The school announced Saturday that no tickets remain.
UCLA (10-0-2) dropped behind Stanford (12-0-1) in the Pac-12 standings. Stanford is 4-0-0 after a 3-0 win Friday over USC, and UCLA is 3-0-1.
Sydney Payne and Rachel Quon scored first-half goals and Natalie Griffen added another in the final minute of the Cardinal's victory over USC (3-10-0). Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe, who played for UCLA's 1990 NCAA men's title-winners, claimed his 200th career victory -- he's 200-69-26 in 14 seasons at St. Mary's and Stanford.
USC has lost seven in a row.
In other women's action:
- Loyola Marymount (6-5-1) lost in its West Coast Conference opener as Joan Piasta scored an early goal and set up another late to lift San Francisco, 2-1. Etajha Gilmer (Cerritos/Gahr HS) tallied for the Lions.
All-American Sydney Leroux's first-half goal stood up Sunday for third-ranked UCLA, which posted its third successive Pacific 12 Conference women's soccer shutout in a 1-0 triumph over No. 23 Oregon State.
Leroux, who is in the U.S. national team pool, took a pass from freshman Caprice Dydasco, made a run to the end line and slipped the ball past Beavers goalkeeper Coleen Boyd in the 17th minute. It was her team-best seventh goal of the season.
UCLA (10-0-1), which conceded just three shots to Oregon State (8-3-1) and claimed its seventh shutout in 11 matches, has a showdown next Sunday at No. 1 Stanford (11-0-1).
In other women´s action:
- USC (3-9-0) has lost six straight one-goal decisions after a 2-1 defeat to visiting Oregon. Kristina Noriega (Westminster/Ocean View HS) tallied for the Women of Troy, who dominated play but surrendered a 63rd-minute winner to Bri Pugh.
- Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS) and Marysol Rosas (Santa Ana/Mater Dei HS) scored two goals and Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) netted her 11th of the season as Long Beach State (9-3-1) routed Cal Poly, 6-0, in a Big West Conference clash in San Luis Obispo.
- Kishi Smith (Chatsworth/Chatsworth HS) set up Stacey Fox (Simi Valley/Royal HS) for the 87th-minute equalizer, then converted a penalty kick nearly four minutes into overtime to lift Cal State Fullerton (6-5-2) to a 2-1 Big West triumph at UC Santa Barbara.