Roster Finalized

In my previous post, I wrote about the still-under-construction new roster and laid out the reasons why I believed the missing returning players would not likely materialize.  Given that the roster is practically complete, my prior assumptions appear to have been confirmed.

So, what to make of the roster?  First, one previously announced player, Hanno Antoni, ended up on Portland University’s roster.  When Athletics announced his pending arrival in the Spring, he was listed as a graduate student.  My guess is that he had trouble gaining admittance into a UCSB graduate program which is notoriously difficult.  In any case, that’s one less German on the roster.  Sad!

The only other expected player not on the roster is LMU transfer Sahid Conteh.  He was never officially announced but Vom Steeg mentioned him in a recent SB NewsPress article, so I expect there is some paperwork to finalize to complete the late transfer.  We have a couple available jersey numbers (11 and 22), so I expect Conteh to be included shortly.

Four players that were not officially announced materialized: GK Alan Carrillo,  D William Gillingham, D Frazer Poulter, and Koby Bench.  Carrillo was not a complete unknown since he announced his intention to join UCSB back in April.  As a member of the El Salvadoran U20 national team, I expect he’s doing more than just shagging balls and filling out the roster.  Gillingham is a defender from the Wellington Phoenix youth academy (New Zealand).  He was given the #2 jersey as a freshman which suggests the coaches think highly of his abilities, so he may be the most significant unannounced late arrival.  Poulter is a transfer from Oregon State University where he earned 4 starts.  His starts came consecutively late in the season, so I expect him to battle for playing time for UCSB.  Our defense is going to be extremely young, but we should have depth and opportunities for players to emerge.

Prior to seeing the players on the field, reading the tea leaves that are the jersey numbers may provide some insights.  To be sure, drawing any conclusions from jersey numbers is an inexact science, but it may be a predictor of what we will see this year.  Vom Steeg had sung the praises of Adames in the recent SBNP article, and he’s wearing the #4 jersey, otherwise known as the Andy Iro jersey.  Ammer will wear the #8, a central midfield number.  He played as an attacking midfielder for Ventura, and this is likely where we will see him play for UCSB, although he could be pushed into a winger role given our central midfield depth.  Rodney Michael, a freshman, was given the responsibility to wear the traditional #9 striker number.  Billingsley will wear the #10 playmaker jersey even though he doesn’t play a traditional playmaker position, so expectations are clearly high for him this year.  Feucht is going with number 77 again which I don’t really know what to do with.  But he’s Feucht, so he can do whatever he wants as far as I’m concerned.

I have some ideas about how we’re likely to line up this year and which players are likely to earn significant playing time, but I’m going to wait until some articles and interviews come out before I start making any guesses.

Taking Inventory for 2017

The 2017 roster is now up on the UCSB Athletics page.  Well, sorta.  There actually isn’t a direct link to it (changing the years from the 2016 roster will yield the page linked above).  This incomplete roster lists only returning players.  The question, though, is does this roster include the only returning players from last year?  That is unclear, but it appears to be the case.  Back in late March, I wrote a post of confirmed departures and included some players that I suspected (but couldn’t confirm) had left the program.  For example, we knew Selemani signed a pro contract with a Greek club, Batista had signed with Portland, and Moni had transferred to Western Michigan.  Quezada left the team (but staying at UCSB), Sam Strong was pretty much gone, and there were rumors that Amo had left.   Additionally, I knew that Pando was playing 2 time zones away for Nashville SC U23 in the PDL, and given that he has appeared in 13 matches, there was no way he was enrolled at UCSB for Spring quarter.  So, it appears the incomplete and unofficial roster has provided some early insight into which players are returning, and I’m going on the assumption that absence on the early roster indicates departure from the program.  In total, the following non-seniors have appeared to have left:

GK Brandon Berke

D  Jeff Quezada

D  Lamar Batista

M  Dalton Pando

M  Kosti Moni

M  Riley Peterson

M  Daniel Amo

GK  Wes Soliman

D  Sam Strong

D  Kyle Perno (to Penn State)

F  Cody Gibson

F  Mason Douillard

F  Adriano Castro

To be fair, some of the players were almost surely walk-ons, and their position on the team was tenuous from the start.  But I have difficulty putting a positive spin on the fact that 13 non-seniors (many of them freshmen) left the program.  From a fan perspective, I prefer continuity.  From a UCSB graduate perspective,  I prefer that students who start their academic career at UCSB earn their degree from UCSB.  From a program supporter perspective, it’s hard not to wonder if something might be amiss with player/coach relationships.  And from a purely practical perspective, I wonder what impact all these departures might have on our  APR.

Leaving those concerns aside and looking into the future, Vom Steeg is surely looking to build a team that can compete for a spot in the 2018 and 2020 College Cups which will be hosted by UCSB.  Incoming freshmen this year and next year will have two bites at the home College Cup apple, so that should help with recruiting as well as retaining higher performing players.

Between the first batch of announced 9 incoming players, it’s difficult to predict which ones will emerge and earn significant playing time.  One front runner would surely be Rodney Michael who was named the Gatorade California Soccer Player of the Year and played at local Dunn school.  While Dunn may not be as prestigious as an MLS academy, Michael Tetteh, Walid Ibrahim, Fifi Baiden, and Abu Danladi all played there.  Another freshman that might make a big impact is Spanish defender Pablo Adames.  With the departures of Batista, Quezada, Strong, Perno, Amo and Pando, there are many minutes up for grabs along the back line.  TVS was quoted as follows in a recent Santa Barbara News Press article:

“[Adames] is the most exciting freshman to come into UCSB in some time. At 6-foot-3, he’s not quite as big as Andy Iro, but he’s the best left-sided center back I’ve seen play since Andy. He is big, strong, and fast – and having been trained in the Spanish youth system, he is as technical as any other player on the field.”

A month after the initial signing class was unveiled, an additional 3 transfers were announced.  Joseph Ammer has been playing with local PDL side, Ventura County Fusion, and he has played as their #10 in the attacking central midfield role.  He seems poised to be a key player for us as TVS said the following about him:

“Joseph will be able to do what Geoffrey (Acheampong) and Ish did for us, running by guys and creating, and changing the game with one play. That’ll be fun to coach again.”

A late unannounced addition to the team is local product Sahid Conteh who is transferring from LMU as a sophomore.  He and Rodney Michael are both originally from Sierra Leone.

Take all the information above with a grain of salt.  Until a player actually enrolls and puts on the jersey, nothing is a sure thing.  Players in the past have been known to have a change of heart or run into an academic snag.  We’re only a month away from the exhibition match against Westmont, so the roster should be complete by then.  Prior to that first match, we should also start to get indications about which players impressed in the early practices.

While I’d love to see the team gel and make a strong run this year’s postseason, I view 2017 as a springboard to 2018 and 2020 when we have the opportunity to play in a College Cup at UCSB.