Los Angeles Soccer: Luis Silva

MLS: Singh adds to local flavor

March, 19, 2012

Sporting Kansas City on Monday signed supplemental draft pick Shawn Singh, boosting UCLA's presence in Major League Soccer and adding to the 53 local players already on rosters.

Singh, a left back from Bakersfield, is the fourth Bruin rookie in MLS this season, joining Philadelphia's Chandler Hoffman, Seattle's Andy Rose and New England's Kelyn Rowe.

Other local rookies: Cal State Northridge midfielder Rafael Garcia with the Galaxy, UC Riverside forward Cesar Diaz Pizarro with San Jose, UC Santa Barbara midfielders Luis Silva with Toronto FC and Sam Garza with San Jose.

Two new local signings -- Galaxy midfielder Jose Villarreal and Chivas USA midfielder Marvin Iraheta -- started the season sidelined by injury.

Here is a list of local players in MLS (with hometown/local high school in parentheses, with local college following):

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GALAXY: There are pluses to ouster

March, 15, 2012

Nick SoolsmaAP Photo/Bret HartmanElimination from the Champions League will allow the Galaxy to refocus their efforts.

CARSON -- The Galaxy's unexpected collapse in the CONCACAF Champions League came as a body blow for Major League Soccer's top team. “We definitely expected to advance,” noted captain Landon Donovan, who before both quarterfinal legs with Toronto FC said when the “opportunity to do something special” comes along, “we want to take advantage of it.”

Instead, it's Canada's team, after a 2-1 second-leg win for a 4-3 aggregate triumph, that will join three Mexican clubs -- Santos Laguna, Monterrey and Pumas UNAM -- in the final four. The prevailing mood in the Galaxy locker room? “Kind of a bit of disbelief,” reported Mike Magee.

The Galaxy, 0-2-1 to start the year, dictated terms all night but weren't sharp enough to find the net, and errors in the back -- including two very costly failures by rookie Tommy Meyer against Ryan Johnson -- cost L.A. its chance to be special.

The Champions League, which sends the victor to next December's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, was the Galaxy's No. 1 priority this year. It wasn't going to be easy: Santos Laguna, who would have been L.A.'s semifinal foe is the best side in the competition, and the other side of the bracket is nearly as good. There remains a gap between Mexico's top league and everyone else, especially with Mexican clubs in midseason form and MLS teams nowhere close to that.

The Galaxy's preseason development lagged behind nearly everyone else's in MLS. They started a week later than most clubs after playing into December, were without two-thirds of their Designated Players during all of preseason, and haven't yet figured out how to overcome losing Omar Gonzalez to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Exiting the competition might be a good thing. They drop at least two and as many as seven games from a heavy schedule that could have kept them on the field, from preseason kickoff to final whistle, for nearly 11 months. They're able to focus on developing this team -- building chemistry among the attackers, solidifying the back line best they can without Gonzalez, implementing that killer attitude so important in last year's title run -- while pursuing the three domestic titles and readying for another Champions League go when the next tournament kicks off in late summer.

“I think the biggest thing we need is time to get on the practice field and work on things,” Donovan said Wednesday night, “because when you're playing game after game, you don't have time to train. As disappointing as this is, at least after this weekend we have two full weeks to get back on the field, watch tape, work on things that we need to get better at so that we can all start gelling better.”

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GALAXY: Silva seeks happy homecoming

March, 14, 2012

Luis Silva, Bruno GuardaAP Photo/Reinhold MatayLuis Silva, left, will be making his return to his native Los Angeles as a member of Toronto FC.

CARSON -- Luis Silva has spent a few evenings inside Home Depot Center -- cheering on the Galaxy, naturally. On Wednesday night the Angeleno will be surrounded by family and friends as he tries to end the Galaxy's dream.

Silva, who scored in his debut for Toronto FC in last week's CONCACAF Champions League first-leg showdown in Canada, hopes to help the Reds to victory in the decisive leg and into a semifinal against the Seattle Sounders or Mexican Primera Division leader Santos Laguna.

“I've been here a few times. As a fan, but here on the pitch, it's my first time,” Silva, a lifelong Galaxy fan, said on the eve of the 7 p.m. clash. “It's a different side now, you can see. Actually training on the field -- I never thought I would be, you know? Maybe in my wildest dreams.”

The rookie midfielder from UC Santa Barbara, the No. 4 overall selection in January's MLS SuperDraft, played a big role in last week's 2-2 tie, nodding home Torsten Frings' long, floating cross to provide a two-goal lead after just 17 minutes.

“Definitely, it was an emotional moment,” Silva said afterward. “It was definitely something that I had been dreaming of, and here it was.”

Silva, 23, has been dreaming of such things for some time. He grew up within south Orange County club giant Pateadores, helped Salesian High School win a CIF Southern California Regional title his senior year, then evolved into a first-team All-American for NCAA powerhouse UCSB. He's one of few rookies stepping right into a starting lineup and figures, at least at this point, to contend with New England's UCLA-bred midfielder Kelyn Rowe and Portland defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste for MLS Rookie of the Year honors.

“It all helps. You have to take your steps,” Silva said. “I first started with my high school, Salesian, and, obviously, we're a good program. We did well to win a few championships, the coaching staff did a good job. Obviously, the club team helps, as well as Santa Barbara. [In college came] the moment I matured and got my head together for what I wanted to do.”

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GALAXY: Donovan saves it for late

March, 7, 2012

GalaxyBrad White/Getty ImagesGalaxy players celebrate Landon Donovan's late goal that delivered a 2-2 tie at Toronto.

TORONTO -- Things couldn't have started much worse for the Galaxy on Wednesday night: Two crosses, two defensive miscues, two goals, and a gaping deficit to be bridged to keep alive the hope of a continental title.

Mission accomplished.

The Galaxy got one goal back nearly a half-hour in, then scored a stunning equalizer in the closing minutes -- Landon Donovan stabbing a loose ball into the back of the net following a David Beckham corner kick -- to claim a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal showdown with Toronto FC.

It quieted a raucous crowd of 47,658 at Rogers Centre and left L.A. needing a victory or low-scoring draw -- 0-0 or 1-1 -- in next week's second leg at Home Depot Center to advance to a semifinal meeting with Mexico's Santos Laguna or Major League Soccer rival Seattle Sounders.

Donovan tallied in the 88th minute, capping a solid final hour after a horrendous beginning in which former German national-teamer Torsten Frings delivered crosses for a 2-0 Toronto advantage after just 17 minutes.

“We put ourselves in a bit of a tough situation, but our response to that was really good,” said Donovan, playing his first game since a bout with flu and bronchitis sapped the strength he built up during a seven-week loan spell in England with Everton. “It would have been a little bit cruel leaving there losing, 2-1. We had a number of chances and on a different night could have scored four or five goals.”

The strike came from a corner after Beckham, who had to wade through waves of streamers tossed his way every time we went to the flag for a kick. This time a beer can came flying by.

“I think everyone saw what happened,” he said. “It's disappointing because I think a crowd like that turns out, it's a great atmosphere, great to play in front of. The majority of fans -- almost all of the fans -- created an amazing atmosphere tonight, so it's disappointing, but it's a minority.”

The equalizer, Beckham said, “you know it was coming. It felt like we were never going to get that goal. We had lots of chances and we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. The ball didn't roll sometimes for us. But we kept at it. I think we deserved a draw at least, but we have to start the game better. That was the disappointing thing for the night.”

Frings was pivotal early, setting up goals on a corner kick the Galaxy failed to adequately clear and then a long cross that found rookie Luis Silva -- the former Salesian High School and UC Santa Barbara star -- for a perfectly placed header that beat goalkeeper Josh Saunders to the far post.

Mike Magee emphatically finished a Sean Franklin cross to trim the deficit in the 29th minute, and L.A. tightened its defense all over the field to slow Toronto's fast, explosive attack after its initial success. Beckham was key, moving deep to set L.A.'s attack with his trademark on-the-dime long balls.

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GALAXY: Who’s back for Champions?

March, 6, 2012
TORONTO -- Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan have barely kicked a ball around with their Galaxy teammates. The first game is on plastic, a surface David Beckham diplomatically notes is “not ideal.” There will be some 45,000 red-clad maniacs screaming for blood.

The Galaxy open their 2012 campaign Wednesday night with as meaningful a match as they're apt to play before November arrives -- future CONCACAF Champions League battles aside -- and there are plenty of angles to consider.

Andy Boyens
Scott French/For ESPNLA.comWith Omar Gonzalez injured, Andy Boyens, above, is the likely starter on defense in Wednesday's game at Toronto.

The most telling could come at the back, where the hole Omar Gonzalez has so capably filled will be manned by someone else. The big question: Who?

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he'll make a decision in the morning, perhaps 10 or 11 hours before L.A. and Major League Soccer rival Toronto FC face off in a quarterfinal first leg in domed Rogers Centre, but that's just coachspeak. All signs are that New Zealander Andrew Boyens will partner A.J. DeLaGarza in central defense.

The rest of the Galaxy lineup ought to look familiar: Josh Saunders in the nets, Sean Franklin and Todd Dunivant as outside backs, the usual crew across midfield -- Donovan, Beckham, Juninho and Mike Magee -- and Keane up top with Edson Buddle, who's back after a year in Germany.

It's as good a lineup as can be seen in MLS, but Gonzalez -- MLS's reigning Defender of the Year, out until at least September because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- will be in a luxury suite, watching his teammates in an encounter that, if not quite must-win, should be considered can't-lose.

“Obviously, Omar's going to hurt. There's no question about that,” Donovan, L.A.'s captain, said on the eve of the club's trek to Canada's biggest city. “But we've got a system in place, and Bruce has done a really good job with the young guys and with Andrew, getting them ready to fill that role. There will probably be a mixing and matching of some guys, but we still feel confident.”

Arena says all of the options -- Boyens, who arrived from Chivas USA in December's re-entry process, and rookie Tommy Meyer are the best of the bunch -- are “ready to play,” that “they've had enough” time to figure things out in preseason, that it's “no different than we experienced some years ago” with Gonzalez and DeLaGarza, as rookies in 2009, “where we had to throw them to the wolves.”

Except it is different. The Galaxy has never played so significant a match to start their season, Toronto FC looks ready to take huge strides after five mostly forgettable campaigns -- and in Dutchman Danny Koevermans possesses an attacker that Arena calls “the real deal, as good a forward as there is” in MLS -- and Gonzalez's influence at the back cannot be understated. It's the one massive question mark staring down the club as it prepares to defend its MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield titles and become the league's first team to win CONCACAF's club championship since the tournament expanded to its current format in 2008.

“It's been something we've been working on all preseason,” said Dunivant said, the most experienced player on the Galaxy backline. “It's no secret that somebody's got to fill the big shoes of Omar. … It's still a work in progress -- it's by no means finished.

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MLS DRAFT: Rowe goes as Hoffman waits

January, 12, 2012

Kelyn RoweMajor League SoccerUCLA's Kelyn Rowe, who was drafted No. 3 by New England, says he's honored to going to that organization.

CARSON -- Chandler Hoffman had heard the buzz, how his superb performance at Major League Soccer's pre-draft combine in Florida -- on top of his 18-goal, All-America showing for NCAA semifinalist UCLA -- had vaulted him into the top five, maybe the top three in the MLS SuperDraft.

So when Commissioner Don Garber began announcing the New England Revolution's selection with the third pick Thursday morning at the Kansas City Convention Center -- first noting the player was a Generation adidas signing from UCLA -- Hoffman got excited.

For a second or two.

It was Bruins teammate Kelyn Rowe the Revolution grabbed at No. 3, and Chandler sat down to wait. And wait. And wait.

Chandler Hoffman
Major League SoccerIt was a longer wait than expected for UCLA's Chandler Hoffman, who was picked No. 13 overall by the Philadelphia Union.

By the time the striker from Birmingham, Ala., finally heard his name, he first round was two-thirds through and the Philadelphia Union, choosing 13th, was giddy.

“Pretty surprising. But good for us, right?” Union assistant coach John Hackworth told the league's website. “We get one of the best young attacking players in he country, someone that's proven to put the ball into the back of the net. There's nothing more valuable in all of soccer.”

Hoffman's slide down he draft table was one of the big stories out of the headlining festivities at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's annual convention, but not the only one involving local players.

There was Rowe, an attacking midfielder from Federal Way, Wash., whom New England coach Jay Heaps described during ESPN2's draft coverage as “a really critical player to our team.”

And there were UC Santa Barbara standouts Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS), who went to Toronto FC with the fourth overall selection, and Texan Sam Garza, taken by San Jose at No. 6.

Plus UC Irvine's Miguel Ibarra, a quartet of UCLA players, English midfielder Andy Rose most prominent among them, and several other hopefuls from local schools who now turn their attention to Tuesday's four-round supplemental draft.

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UCLA's Rowe joins GA list

December, 29, 2011

UCLA has lost a second underclassmen to Major League Soccer, but it wasn't like it was unexpected. Kelyn Rowe, who looked seriously at turning pro following his freshman season a year ago, is the league's fifth Generation adidas signing.

Rowe, the Pacific 12 Conference's Player of the Year, joins All-American forward Chandler Hoffman in MLS's developmental program and could be a top-three selection in the Jan. 12 MLS SuperDraft.

Rowe, 20, an attacking midfielder from Federal Way, Wash., has extensive youth national team experience and is in the U.S. under-23 group preparing for Olympic qualifiers early next spring. He was a third-team All-American as a freshman and amassed 13 goals and 20 assists in two seasons in Westwood. He was the first attacker off the bench as the Bruins marched into the NCAA College Cup final four earlier this month.

“It’s every kid’s dream to be a professional soccer player, and I’m definitely in that boat,” Rowe told MLS's website. “It’s a dream come true, so it’s a little surreal right now, hasn’t quite hit me. I think it will once preseason starts.”

He said the opportunity to play against the Galaxy and Chivas USA during his time at UCLA offered a glimpse of what could be.

“We got a little taste what it’s like to play at the next level,” Rowe said. “But it’s going to be hard. It’s never easy. The pace of the game is that much faster, the physicality is there, you’re playing against guys who have been playing for years at that level.”

Rowe and Hoffman had been expected to sign GA pacts, which include funds to complete their degrees and opportunities, because of the program's roster rules, that aren't available to college seniors. GA players do not count against their clubs' roster sizes nor salary caps.

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COLLEGE: Our all-area teams

December, 25, 2011

UCLA's Chandler Hoffman scored goals by the bunches on a quest to go home. Nadia Link netted nearly as many to take Long Beach State to unprecedented heights. Christian Ramirez dazzled for Concordia. And Fabiola da Silva prodded Cal Baptist to a national championship.

Fabiola Da Silva
Rachel McDaniel/CBU SportsBrazilian midfielder Fabiola da Silva led Cal Baptist to the NCCAA national title.

They're ESPN Los Angeles College Players of the Year after superb fall campaigns on local fields.

We selected men's and women's teams, one for players from 10 local NCAA Division I institutions and another for players from 24 NCAA Divisions II and III, NAIA and unaffiliated schools.

Our coaches of the year in Division I are Junior Gonzalez, who led the remarkable turnaround by UC Riverside's men, and Tim Ward, whose Pepperdine women were a top-five team during the regular season. In the lower divisions, it's Ralph Perez, who took Redlands' men to 20 wins and NCAA Division III third-round berth, and Kristen St. Clair, who presided over a superb transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, with the Pacific West Conference title and National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Division I national crown.

The freshmen of the year: Cal State Northridge's Edwin Rivas and UCLA's Abby Dahlkemper in D1, Cal Baptist's Michael Salazar and Cal Lutheran's Taylor Will in D2/D3/NAIA.

Here are our inaugural postseason all-star teams:

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COLLEGE: 11 locals are All-Americans

December, 9, 2011

UC Irvine's Miguel Ibarra and UC Santa Barbara's Luis Silva, two of the nation's finest collegiate midfielders, were honored Friday as first-team Division I All-Americans by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

UCLA's Sydney Leroux was a first-team women's selection as 11 local players received All-America acclaim and 39 collected all-region honors.

Stanford's Camille Levin, from Newport Coast (Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School), also was a first-team women's choice

Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS), a junior, led Big West champion UCI with nine goals along with eight assists. Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) scored 17 goals with 10 assists for the Gauchos.

UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe and Connecticut midfielder Carlos Alvarez (Los Angeles/Salsian HS) were second-team selections, and UCLA forward Chandler Hoffman and Cal State Bakersfield forward Gyasi Zardes (Hawthorne/Leuzinger HS) were chosen for the third-team.

Ibarra, Silva and Rowe have been invited to Major League Soccer's predraft combine next month in Florida.

UC Irvine defender CoCo Goodson and Pepperdine defender Michelle Pao are second-team women's selections, and UCLA freshman defender Abby Dahlkemper is a third-teamer.

Below are lists of local players selected to All-America and all-region teams:

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UCLA quartet receives MLS invite

December, 7, 2011

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.

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COLLEGE: Men's all-conference teams

November, 28, 2011
UCLA's Kelyn Rowe is the Pacific 12 Conference Player of the Year and Bruins coach Jorge Salcedo, a former Bruins (and Major League Soccer) star from Cerritos, is Coach of the Year.

In the Big West Conference, UC Irvine's Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) and UC Riverside's Cesar Diaz Pizarro (Chino/Ayala HS) were co-Offensive Players of the Year. UCI's Andrew Fontein was honored as top goalkeeper, and Riverside's Nat Gonzalez was Coach of the Year. UC Santa Barbara's Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) won Midfielder of the Year honors, and James Kiffe was the best defender.

California Collegiate Athletic Association champion Cal State L.A. dominated the league's awards, with UC Santa Barbara transfer Taylor Rivas (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) winning for Most Valuable Defensive Player, Rosario Bras for Newcomer of the Year and Chris Chamides as Coach of the Year. Cal Poly Pomona star Luis Gonzalez (Long Beach/Millikan HS and Cerritos College) was the Most Valuable Offensive Player.

Redlands' Cody Carlson (Burbank/Burbank HS) is the Southern California Collegiate Athletic Conference Athlete of the Year.

Here are all of the local men's all-conference teams:

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COLLEGE: 49ers want to make history

November, 24, 2011

As he prepared his Long Beach State women's soccer team for something truly historic, Mauricio Ingrassia figured what better way to illustrate what the 49ers have accomplished -- and what remains in their reach -- than to show off a little living history.

So off they went, upon flying into North Carolina for Friday's NCAA Division I quarterfinal at thid-ranked Duke, to visit Anson Dorrance, architect of the most dominant dynasty in American sports history.

Dorrance, with a nearly never-ending stream of legends -- Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, April Heinrichs, Carla Overbeck, Tisha Venturini, Lorrie Fair, Lindsay Tarpley, Lori Chalupny, Heather O'Reilly, Tobin Heath -- has guided North Carolina to 21 national championships and fueled the U.S. women's national team's dominance in the women's game.

“Four our girls, that's history,” said Ingrassia, whose 49ers (18-5-1) have won eight in a row, seven by shutout, en route to the Big West Conference tournament title, a first-round NCAA “upset” of No. 7 Pepperdine, victories over Miami and San Diego and to a wholly unexpected spot in the elite eight. “If you ask [female] college players around the country if they ever thought about playing at North Carolina, you'd see a lot of hands, and our program isn't any different.”

So Ingrassia's charges oohed and ahhed at all the silverware and championship banners and mementos of those icons, checked out the facilities and spend a little time with Dorrance, the winningest coach in the American game, any level, anywhere.

Now they head into a battle with a Duke team that's 20-3-1, has a vibrant attack led by freshman Kelly Cobb and sophomores Kaitlyn Kerr and Mollie Pathman and an outstanding backline anchored by sophomore Natasha Anasi. The smart money has the Blue Devils in the Dec. 4 final against No. 1 Stanford.

Nothing is expected of Long Beach State, which hadn't won in two previous NCAA appearances. Now they sit one very difficult win from a College Cup final appearance.

“The goal for the team was to get to the sweet 16 or better,” said Ingrassia, whose team has advanced further than North Carolina, defending champion Notre Dame and perennial powers Santa Clara, Portland, UCLA and Florida. “Once we got to the sweet 16, we got the team together and said, 'Define what 'better' means to you. They came up with some pretty good and pretty powerful answers, so we redefined our goal.”

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COLLEGE: UC Irvine loses NCAA opener

November, 21, 2011

UC Irvine rallied late to force overtime, but the seventh-ranked Anteaters couldn't stop St. Mary's at the end, dropping a 2-1 decision in their NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament opener Sunday night.

Justin Howard's header nearly 13 minutes into overtime lifted the Gaels (10-6-5) into a third-round clash at Brown (12-4-3), which upset ninth-seeded St. John's.

Riley Hanley scored from a deflected corner kick in the 58th minute to provide a lead for St. Mary's, the West Coast Conference champion. Big West Conference titlist Irvine (16-6-1), which had a first-round bye, pulled even on a finish by Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) in the 84th, his team-best ninth goal of the season.

The decisive goal followed a cleared corner kick that was sent back into the Anteaters' box and was headed about a half-dozen times between the sides before falling to Howard, who nodded it home.

In other men's action:
  • Chandler Hoffman scored in the 83rd minute, his 16th of the season, and goalkeeper Brian Rowe posted his sixth straight shutout to lead No. 4 UCLA (16-4-1) to an NCAA Division I second-round victory over visiting Delaware. The Bruins will be home next Sunday evening at 5 against Rutgers (10-6-4), which toppled fourth-seeded Boston College on penalties.

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COLLEGE: A perfect 10

November, 14, 2011

Sydney LerouxScott Chandler/UCLA AthleticsUCLA All-American Sydney Leroux sees time with the U.S. national team.

As the college soccer season hits its stretch drive, let's take a look at some of the most dominant players in Southern California this year, no matter the division.

Here are 10 who enjoyed marvelous campaigns:

Cal Poly Pomona
Who is he?
Senior striker from Long Beach (Millikan HS), the national JC Player of the Year at Cerritos College and soon-to-be two-time All-American in two seasons with the Broncos.
What has he done? Scored 14 goals this year and 26 in two seasons at Cal Poly Pomona, winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association's Most Valuable Offensive Player award this fall.
Coachspeak: “I equate Luis Gonzalez to Magic Johnson,” Broncos coach Lance Thompson said, “and I do that because a heard a story about Magic where he was playing for his youth basketball team and they were winning and he was jumping for joy and excited and couldn't figure out why his teammates were so depressed. Well, if the team scored 70 points, he scored 68, and he learned a valuable lesson of giving and getting others involved so they could contribute, and he became one of the best assist guys ever. That's Luis. Luis takes more pride and has more joy in getting teammates involved than he does in scoring. And the more he gave, the more he received. That's what sets him apart over any other student-athlete I've coached.”

UC Irvine
Who is she?
Senior center back from Ramona (San Diego County), a University of Texas transfer expected to repeat as a Division I All-American.
What has she done? Set the standard at the back to lead the Anteaters to back-to-back Big West Conference titles, an NCAA sweet 16 appearance last year, and a return to the NCAA tournament this fall.
Coachspeak: “Coco's unique,” Anteaters coach Scott Juniper said. “She is the strongest player that I've seen in women's soccer. She strikes a ball better than many of the male players I've worked with, and she is just a relentless competitor. She's totally unique, and there isn't another player out there like her.”

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COLLEGE: Link lifts L.B. past Waves

November, 13, 2011

MALIBU -- Nadia Link has netted some wonderful goals this season, but few as sweet -- and none as important -- as her bending blast Saturday afternoon at Pepperdine.

Link fired into the far corner of the net with 13 seconds to go in the first overtime period to lift Long Beach State to a 1-0 triumph over the seventh-ranked Waves in an NCAA Division I tournament opener.

It was the first NCAA victory in 49ers history, and the first over a top-10 opponent, and it was product on Link's twisting shot and five big saves by goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves.

“That's seven years of work -- seven and a half years ...,” said Long Beach State coach Mauricio Ingrassia, who has the 49ers in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years. “We had a couple of injuries [when we lost in the first round to San Diego] in '08. And last year we played our best game of the year against Santa Clara, but [their goalkeeper] had the game of her life. This year we felt we had the experience. It would have been very painful to be 0-3 in the tournament without scoring a goal.”

The goal was a beauty. Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) received a pass from midfielder Sidney Garza (Ventura /Buena HS), took the ball up the left flank, then cut inside along the top of the Waves box, where she found uncommon space.

She's a left-footer, but the shot was on her right, and it twisted away -- “corkscrewed,” is how Pepperdine coach Tim Ward put it -- toward the upper-right. Waves goalkeeper Roxanne Barker (Irvine/Woodbridge HS) never had a chance.

“The team was asking why did I wait so long,” said Link, who tied the school record with her 16th goal of the season. “I saw the pass coming from Sidney Garza, and all I heard was Mauricio saying, 'Take it down the line!' And I remember thinking, 'That's a long way.' ... It went in, and I don't even remember celebrating. I was too busy crying.”

Said Ward: “A moment was going to decide the game, and that moment [belonged to] Nadia Link. ... A great player scored a great goal to beat us.”

Link described the odd path of her shot as “the unpredictability of my right foot.”

The strike brought a dramatic end to a tight, thrilling clash marked by superb defense in the boxes, with Long Beach State's backline -- especially center back Jordan Nelson (Garden Grove/Pacifica HS and Loyola Marymount) -- doing well to get in the way of shots by Lynn Williams and Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS).

Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS) came up big five times, including a double-save, the second with her foot, on Amanda LeCave after an uncharacteristic giveaway by defender Alex Balcer. The goalkeeper followed up by snagging a long shot by right back Michelle Pao, Pepperdine's most dangerous attacker, then made two diving saves on Williams in the second half.

Long Beach advances to a second-round clash Friday against Miami (10-7-1), a 3-2 winner over Alabama, at UCLA's Drake Stadium.

In other women's action:
  • Freshman Kylie McCarthy knocked home a 65th-minute rebound as No. 2 UCLA (16-1-3) scored a 1-0 victory over visiting New Mexico (12-5-4) in an NCAA Division I first-round game. The Bruins limited the Mountain West Conference champion to three shots, just two on target, in a dominant performance en route to a second-round clash Friday in Westwood against San Diego.

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