Los Angeles Soccer: Miguel Ibarra
Orange County Blue Star sits atop the Southwest Division standings in the Premier Development League following last week's 3-2 win at archrival Southern California Seahorses, and another victory in Tuesday night's rematch would put a little space between them and Fresno Fuego.
The sides are even on points and have virtually identical goal totals -- Blue Star's 12 for-7 against just above Fresno's 12-8 -- but Blue Star (3-0-3) have a game in hand and are on a three-game winning streak, scoring three times in each victory. Kyle O'Brien (Garden Grove/Marina HS and Vanguard University), Floridian Nico Olsak and U.S. youth national-teamer Miles Byass (Highland/Redlands HS), a junior at San Diego State, scored the goals against the Seahorses.
Fresno (3-1-3) has won just one of its last six games, and that against the U.S. Club Soccer's rep in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Fuego were on the road last week, getting bombed in the Open Cup's second round by second-division Fort Lauderdale Strikers, then managing only draws against the PDL's Utah clubs, who have never been in contention for playoff berths.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
Five weeks in and things are starting to fall into place in the Premier Development League's Southwest Division, and that's with one side yet to open its season.
Longtime powers Orange County Blue Star and Ventura County Fusion took big steps forward, both them shaking off slow starts to their seasons with a pair of impressive victories.
Blue Star (2-0-3) clobbered first-place Fresno Fuego, 3-1, in the Central Valley, rolling to a three-goal lead through two Andrew Riemer goals and another by Adrian Avila, then headed home to handle the Ogden Outlaws, also by a 3-1 tally. Nico Olsak scored and assisted goals in that one.
Orange County, one of two unbeaten teams in the Southwest Division, climbed within a point of the Fuego (5-1-1), who are in Florida for a U.S. Open Cup second-round match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers from the second-tier North American Soccer League. The other unbeaten: BYU Cougars, who open their season this weekend.
The Fusion (2-1-1), coming off a U.S. Open Cup victory over the NPSL's Fullerton Rangers (and in advance of Tuesday's Open Cup second-rounder against the L.A. Blues) posted shutouts over the Ogden Outlaws (2-0) and Pali Blues (3-0), both second-tier sides at best within the division.
Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller and UCLA) scored in both games for the third-place Fusion. Francisco Lopez played a role in all three goals against Pali.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
Emilio Orozco joined Mexico UANL Tigres straight out of high school. Now he's back in the States, for at least the summer.Miguel Ibarra's goal was to make a Major League Soccer roster. He'll continue working toward that in American soccer's second division.
They're among 16 players with local ties in the North American Soccer League, an eight-team outfit that opened its season Saturday with clubs on the East Coast, in the Midwest and in Canada and the Caribbean. Eight of them, including Orozco and Ibarra, are from Southern California. Three more played college ball here, and five others have spent time with the Galaxy, Chivas USA or L.A. Blues.
Orozco, a wing-back from Oxnard (Oxnard HS) who starred for San Fernando Valley youth club Real So Cal, joined the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on loan from Tigres, where he has played in the youth ranks and for the club's under-20 team.
His cousin, Moises Orozco (Oxnard/Oxnard HS) -- a playmaker with U.S. national team aspirations who also is with Tigres -- was on trial with Toronto FC during MLS's preseason.
Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) was drafted by the Portland Timbers during January's MLS supplemental draft, and he joined the Minnesota Stars after he was released from camp. The playmaker joins former UC Irvine teammate Amani Walker and three other local players on the Stars' roster.
Another UC Irvine-bred rookie, goalkeeper Andrew Fontein, is with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Two Chivas USA draft picks are in the league: Cal State Fullerton's Kevin Venegas (Lakewood/Los Alamitos HS), a midfielder with Minnesota, and German defender Fabian Kling, who is with expansion team San Antonio Scorpions.
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 -- 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.
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.
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:
George Kuntz has seen some amazing things in nearly four decades as an accomplished player and coach, but when he tries to describe what's special about Miguel Ibarra -- what qualities he might bring to a Major League Soccer club -- he's at a loss for words.
“I wish I could give you some footage, some highlights [on video],” said Kuntz, who has coached Ibarra the past two seasons at Big West Conference powerhouse UC Irvine. “It's hard to explain how he punctuates dramatic moments in games.”
Like in September, when Ibarra, a diminutive midfielder from Lancaster, careened through Wisconsin's “redwoods” to set up an overtime winner for the Anteaters. Or in November, when he took on Cal Poly's defense, weaving past and walking the ball into the net to provide another win.
Kuntz can nearly wax poetic on Ibarra's performances against UC Santa Barbara, which UCI twice beat last fall to win the Big West regular-season and tournament titles, or how he came back from a blow that had knocked him out of the NCAA tournament opener against St. Mary's to create the goal that forced overtime. Or countless occasions on the training field.
“All these punctuation goals,” Kuntz said. “The guy creates and scores goals. What I like about his play is how [Barcelona's Lionel] Messi dribbles inside and slips the forward in -- Miguel does that both from the right and the left side, or he can take guys down the line.
“He's got extraordinary speed. His cardio ... there are very few guys who can run at the level of speed with and without the ball that he has over a long period of time.”
Those skills and the work honing them have led accolades and opportunity. His mesmerizing trickery won him first-team NSCAA Division I All-America plaudits last month and an invitation to the MLS's pre-draft Player Combine, which wraps up Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Ibarra (Lancaster HS), 21, He says he “definitely was not expecting” either honor, but the first was a sign that “all the hard work paid off, just an amazing feeling” and the second “an opportunity, and I have to work hard for it and give it all I have.”
Ibarra, 5-foot-7 and just 135 pounds, offers something very rare for the club that selects him in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, Kuntz says, so long as they understand what it is he does. He's drawn comparison to 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar, D.C. United's teen sensation, and Kuntz sees in him a little Irving Garcia, the UCI product who withered in the wrong system after he was drafted by the New York Red Bulls two years ago.
“Whoever gets him, if they're going to use him like [New York utilized] Garcia, they probably don't want to pick him up,” Kuntz said. “If you don't give a player like this freedom, you're going to limit your own goalscoring opportunities. Used the right way -- as a wide player or a playmaker, an attacking player who has defensive responsibilities but also players around him [to pick up the defensive slack], he can wreak havoc.”
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Miguel Ibarra's second-half goal Tuesday night carried UC Irvine past Cal Poly. Now the Anteaters must play a waiting game.
Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) finished a feed from his former Taft College teammate Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) in the 56th minute to give No. 14 UCI (14-5-1) a 1-0 victory in San Luis Obispo -- and a home assignment for next week's Big West Conference men's soccer tournament semifinals.
The Anteaters, who wrapped up their Big West campaign at 6-3-1, are four points above UC Davis (5-3) and No. 17 UC Santa Barbara (5-4) in the conference standings. The Gauchos can't catch UCI, but Davis has two games left -- and one victory and one tie Wednesday against last-place Cal State Fullerton and Saturday at UC Riverside -- would be enough to catch up.
Davis beat Irvine and would be the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament if they shared the regular-season title.
All four tournament berths were clinched Tuesday, thanks to Irvine's victory and UC Santa Barbara's 3-2 triumph at Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos and UC Riverside will join Irvine and Davis in Wednesday's semifinals.
CSUN and Cal Poly were eliminated from contention.
Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) scored twice, including a deflected shot that found the net with 19 seconds to go in overtime, to lift UC Santa Barbara.
Christian Hernandez and Christian Santana each contributed a goal and an assist as No. 7 UC Irvine pulled three points ahead in the Big West Conference men's soccer race with a 5-1 romp Wednesday night at UC Riverside.
Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS), Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) and Norby Rodriguez (Thousand Oaks/Thousand Oaks HS) scored first-half goals for the Anteaters (12-2-0), and an own goal 2½ minutes into the second half made it 4-0. Santana netted Irvine's finale 10 minutes later.
The Anteaters have won four in a row since opening Big West play with a 1-0 loss to Cal Poly and lead Cal State Northridge, which is 3-1-0, by three points. UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and UC Davis have six points from four games.
UC Riverside (6-5-1) has stumbled badly since its Big West opener, an upset of UC Santa Barbara, losing three in a row -- including a 5-0 decision against Cal Poly in its previous match.
In other men's action:
- No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (9-3-1) throttled visiting Cal State Fullerton (6-4-2), romping to a 6-0 Big West triumph Tuesday as Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) and David Opoku each scored twice. The shot total was close: 16-13 for the Gauchos. Fullerton lost its third in a row.
- Cal State Northridge (6-5-1) is 3-1 in the Big West after a 2-0 victory Tuesday at Cal Poly. Thomas Ramos and Brian Behrad (Woodland Hills/Taft HS) netted the goals.