Big Changes Afoot

It took longer than in past years, but the roster has been updated, and there’s quite a bit to pick through.

Alright.  Let’s just get the whole Kevin Feucht transferring-to-Duke-thing out of the way.  Feucht transferred to Duke.  Hadn’t heard?  He earned his bachelor’s from UCSB and was looking to go to grad school for his final year of eligibility.  Good for him.  C’est la vie.

The preliminary roster suggests the departure of the following non-seniors:

Adomako – transferred to Div II Rollins College

Adam Ek

Nicholas Saglimbeni

Koby Bench

Brandon Magpayo

Titouan Le Roux – transferred to Div II Nova Southeastern

The good news is that we did not prematurely lose any established players.  You may recall from last year that I rated Magpayo highly, but given his lack of playing time, it didn’t appear the coaches shared my favorable assessment.  To be fair, though, he was likely not to see much more of the pitch this year given the players that would be playing ahead of him.

In addition to the players listed above, we also lose the following seniors from last year:

Randy Mendoza

Josue Salgado

Seo-In Kim

Omar Montalvo

Alex Liua

Of the seniors, the only established player was Mendoza with the others receiving mostly spot starts while functioning primarily as role players.  Looking at last year’s stats, all the players we’ve lost earned 44 collective starts.  Removing Mendoza from the group, we’re left with just 27 starts.  Over the course of last season, there were 209 starting spots over 19 matches, so with Mendoza, we’ve lost about 21% of our starts.  I would guess that a good college team would typically lose 35-40% of its production from one year to the next as seniors tend to play more as would players that are good enough to test the pro waters early.  Also, some of the players from above received starts and minutes largely due to injuries or eligibility issues with players in front of them.   For example, had Ammer, Mendez, and Feucht been available last year, Kim and Magpayo would have played significantly fewer minutes.

The point is that we lost very little year-to-year in the context of college soccer.  Also, all those freshmen and sophomores that played last year (there were matches last year where 8-9 of our starters were underclassmen) have played together for a year.  Even if we brought back just the current returners and add Ammer and Mendez, we would already likely be better than we were last year.  Luckily for us, however, Vom Steeg did some recruiting and has brought in some promising players.  I’m going to take the time to highlight 4 new players likely to play prominent roles for us.

Carson Vom Steeg – henceforth, Carson shall be referred to as CVS.  Once I was tipped off to CVS leaving Stanford, UCSB seemed the obvious destination assuming his plans were to play college instead of turning pro.  CVS is in the pool of the U20 US national team as a defender, and most of his peers are playing professionally, and there is likely pressure for him to turn pro as well.   He was not called up for a July camp that just ended, but I hear he has a foot injury and may miss the start of our season.  Now, if he gets healthy and is called up, we may be without his services during a critical stretch of our schedule as the U20 CONCACAF championship tourney will be held from Nov. 1 through November 21.    While there is still some uncertainty surrounding CVS (injury and possible U20 call up), Feucht’s departure is significantly mitigated by the arrival of CVS.  On paper, CVS should be one of the best players on the team.

Faouzi Taieb – it is easiest to predict how effective a D1 transfer will be since there’s an apple-to-apple comparison.  This is especially true when the player comes from a good school from a good conference.  And if that player received all-conference accolades, particularly when that player was younger than the other honorees, it’s possible to project how that player might fare for us.  One added clue is the jersey number the player was given as it suggests how our coaches envision their role with the team.  Taieb pretty much checks all the boxes.  Granted, St Francis Brooklyn isn’t a big name, but it was good enough to make the NCAA tourney (something we couldn’t manage).  He was named to the 2nd Team All-Conference as a sophomore, scored 3 goals last year as a central defender, and the coaches gave him the #5 jersey.  All signs point to Taieb becoming a starter for us.  Along with CVS and Adames, our central defense should be excellent.  TVS has experimented with a 3 man backline in the past, and that option is very much alive given our personnel.  Otherwise, I project that CVS will push up to defensive midfield or possibly as an outside back.

Thibault Candia – Candia is another D1 transfer, and I liked to see that Temple underwent a coaching change which likely explains his transfer.  Why do I like that, you ask?  In my experience, D1 transfers oftentimes come with baggage.  In most cases, something made them unhappy about their prior situation, and they bailed to join us.  The likelihood that these players possess a poor attitude, play selfishly, or leave us prematurely has historically been higher than non-D1 transfers or players that join as freshmen.   Anyway, Temple plays in a decent conference with teams like Tulsa, USF, and UConn.  Last year, Candia earned 2nd Team All-Conference honors as a sophomore and led his 9-8-1  Owls in scoring with 6 goals.  He is listed as a forward on our roster, but he doesn’t appear to play as a striker.  Rather, he appears to play more as a withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder.

Axel Mendez – Yeah, I know he’s not a new player by a couple different measures.  First, he played at UCSB as a freshman in 2014 (Conference Freshman of the Year).  Second, he was on our roster last year, but he was never cleared to play by the NCAA.  More than anything else last year, we missed a play-making presence in midfield.  We saw flashes of it with Ammer in the few matches he played, and I thought Magpayo did a serviceable job when he received opportunities.  But otherwise, our midfield was a black hole last year, and it impacted our build-up play.  Our young defenders sent ball after ball up-field last year with no real purpose or intent.  Our central midfielders didn’t check back for the ball consistently, our lack of misdirection made us predictable, we didn’t have a player to settle the team, and the service from the middle of the pitch was just dreadful last year.  Along with Ammer and possibly Candia, our attacking midfield options should be formidable.

Now let’s move to some of the new players I view as wildcards that I have my eye on as potential emerging players.

Hunter Ashworth – a transfer from University of San Francisco, he redshirted last year.  He started 10 matches as a freshman and has played with the U20 New Zealand national team.  He’s 6’5″, so he an obvious center back.  Since he redshirted last year, and since we possess other centerbacks that look to have an edge over him, we’ll see how he figures into TVS’ plans.

Diran Bebekian – Bebekian has flown under the radar as he was never announced by Athletics despite his verbal commitment being publicly known.  He comes to us from the RSL Academy and has played on Armenia’s YNT.  The coaches thought highly enough of him to give him the #13 jersey.

Carter Clemmensen – any high school player that did not play for an academy team makes it difficult to project how that might translate to college ball.  However, Clemmensen played for a prestigious high school  and received a slew of honors, both regional and national.  At 6’3″, he’s a natural striker on a team that needs exactly that.  If he can emerge as a scoring threat and finish the chances created by our outstanding midfielders and wingers, we’re going to be in excellent shape.

 

People love to project line-ups, but for college soccer and its liberal substitution rules, it’s not that important.  Also, how we start the year may look very different from how we end it.  TVS likes to try players at different positions, so I expect the personnel and formations to be in flux for the first third of the season.  However, I will take a crack at each position and include a rough depth chart.

Keeper

Given how well Carrillo played last year, this is his position to lose.  Then again, nobody would have projected Carrillo as our starter last year (including Carrillo, btw).

Carrillo, Roach, Montoy

 

Left Back

This position is perhaps the biggest question mark coming into this year with the departure of Mendoza.  Acosta was the understudy last year, but I’m not convinced that is his best position. Beyond Acosta, I have a lot of question marks.  This could become moot if we go with a 3 man backline with Adames playing as the left-sided defender.  It’s also very possible that we see an attacker being converted to an outside back or a redshirt from last year might emerge.  I’m so uncertain about our outside back positions that I’m not even going to venture a guess for our depth.

 

Right Back

Here we have the second biggest question mark.  We platooned the right back position last year, and nobody was particularly convincing.  Kashani logged probably the most minutes, but those were primarily earlier in the year.  He’s a more natural central defender.  Gillingham and Poulter also did not impress.  Again, we might see a 3 man backline or convert an attacker to an outside back (see Left Back above).

 

Center Back

We have an embarrassment of riches at this position.

Adames, Taieb, CVS, Kashani, Ashworth, Ilskens, Poulter, Gillingham, Pak

 

Defensive/ Holding Midfield

Last year, our first choice options settled on Acosta and Ilskens with Acosta playing more box-to-box while Ilskens played a more holding role.  If we continue to play with 2 players, depth will likely be a concern as I don’t see any obvious new players who would fit here.  Now, I listed CVS as third on the CB depth chart because I envision him playing a defensive midfield role.

CVS, Ilskens, Acosta, Fletcher

 

Attacking Midfield

This will be a clear strength for us, and given our depth for a position typically occupied by one player, it will be interesting to see if TVS employs a second attacking player in the middle or plays people in unnatural positions (deeper playmaker or at wing).  For example, we could play a 4-1-2-2-1 or a 4-4-1-1.

Ammer, Mendez, Candia, Michael

 

Left Wing

When healthy, Billingley was our first choice.  If he shows greater consistency and stays healthy, it will be difficult for others to take his place.

Billingley, Ammer, Bebekian, Acosta, Michael

 

Right Wing

Unless TVS has other plans for him (right back?!), Michael is clearly our best player at this position.

Michael, Ammer, Mendez, Conteh

 

Forward

Tellechea was our first choice, but he will have some stiff competition this year.

Tellechea, Kryzda, Candia, Clemmensen, Michael

 

Obviously, there are a number of players on the roster that I didn’t mention.  It’s entirely possible that some pleasant surprises will emerge.  In fact, going off history, it’s actually likely.

The next thing to pay attention to is media day when TVS will do several interviews and reveal some of the players that have impressed him.  Some time not long after that, we’ll actually get to see the team play at which point much of what I wrote above will be completely out the window.

Schedule Released: A Discussion

The 2018 schedule has been released with the most notable revelation being the abolition of  North and South divisions as well as the conference schedule condensing from 10 matches to 7 matches.   From an RPI perspective, this is very good news for us, as it frees our hand to schedule teams that are most likely to provide us an overall opportunity to earn a seed to the NCAA tournament.  Now, you may have already looked at the schedule and noticed 9 matches versus Big West teams.  The first such match is against UC Riverside at home on August 28.  This is a non-conference match.  Why Vom Steeg would schedule the historically worst conference team as an out-of-conference (OOC) match after lobbying aggressively to truncate the conference schedule is a complete mystery to me (more on this later).  The second OOC  match against a conference foe is at Cal Poly on September 30.  While scheduling this match can be forgiven for obvious reasons, it’s also concerning that Poly’s recent scheduling MO has been one of taking on the best in the nation, thus resulting in a poor/mediocre record which hurts our RPI.   Their schedule has yet to be released, but it’s something to keep an eye on.  The posted schedule indicates the first Poly match as a conference match, but I have it on good authority that it is not a conference match.  The top 6 teams qualify for the conference tournament with all 8 teams forming a single table.

Other thoughts on the schedule before diving into an RPI discussion:

  • We play at New Mexico on September 11.  Or do we?  There are discussions afoot to eliminate some sports, and men’s soccer is apparently in peril.
  • We play our first regular season match in the Bay Area since 2008 when play at Moraga on September 19.
  • We host UCLA on Saturday, September 19 which is move-in weekend.

For me, the regular season is all about positioning oneself to earn a seed in the NCAA tournament.  The only way to do that is to have an RPI rank of around 16.  So, the most expeditious way to analyze our upcoming schedule without doing a deep dive into each individual team is to look at how this year’s opponents fared last year.  The assumption is that there is enough continuity within a program to use it as a predictor to how well they will do this year.  With that said, here is our schedule from an RPI perspective with the team’s record (50% of raw RPI calculation) and RPI rank (for bonus potential when playing away or neutral):

St. Johns   (9-7-3),  67

UC Riverside (5-13-1), 176 …. why?!

AT Portland (9-7-1),  40

AT Seattle (15-4-4),  50

Butler (14-5-2),  14

AT New Mexico (8-6-4),  66

AT Utah Valley  (6-10-2), 151

AT St. Mary’s  (6-6-5),   76

UCLA  (7-10-1),  51

Gonzaga  (6-9-2),  126

AT Cal Poly  (7-10-1),  93

AT Sac St   (8-9-2),  130

CSUF  (10-8-4),  102

AT UC Riverside (5-13-1), 176 …. AGAIN!

AT UC Irvine  (8-8-3),  114

Davis  (11-7-3),  61

CSUN  (10-9-2),  102

Cal Poly  (7-10-1),  93

While it’s not a schedule that will likely enable us to achieve a top 8 seed, with a decent record (over 0.750), some bonuses, and no penalties, we should be able to compete for an at-large bid and possibly a 9-16 seed.

We play 6 OOC matches on the road while hosting just 5.  That provides us with more opportunities to earn RPI bonuses, particularly early in the season when we travel to Portland and Seattle.  However, and I hate to keep harping on this, but if we lose to Riverside at home, and they end up with a very poor RPI rank (which is highly possible), we incur an RPI penalty.

A final note on the schedule is that we should expect to see UCLA with a significantly better record.

Next up is to monitor the 2018 roster  as it fills in over time.

How I Procured My Own UCSB Soccer Jersey: A Case Study in Citizen Journalism

Tl;dr – Continue reading to learn about my months long journey to procure an authentic UCSB soccer jersey by employing dogged determination and knowledge of public records laws to satiate my manic motivations  .  Pics at bottom.

If you are a fan of the beautiful game, you’ve surely recognized the prominence of replica soccer jerseys at stadiums and bars on match days.  Even non-fans must notice the omnipresence of jerseys whether as casual wear in the ‘hood or when one tunes in to the nightly news and watch footage of a Ronaldinho impersonator hurling a rock at Israeli defense forces.  On the day that aliens finally visit our planet, their team of cultural anthropologists would surely conclude that the most ubiquitous garment worn by earthlings is that of the humble soccer jersey.

Long time fans of Gaucho soccer are well aware of the impossibility of buying an authentic or replica UCSB soccer jersey.  Visiting the Gaucho Shop’s jersey section has been a years-long source of futility for fans hoping to don the kit of their favored collegiate club.  If Athletics can muster the resources to sell basketball and baseball jerseys, then why not also soccer jerseys?  If you further peruse the Gaucho Shop, you will encounter innumerable choices of clothing along with the most random knickknacks one can imagine.  But no soccer jerseys?  The answer must be that all the merchandise appears to be generic items sitting in a Coppell, Texas warehouse that services a variety of organizations, and those items are simply awaiting a UCSB logo adhered, stitched, or silk-screened  to the merchandise prior to shipment to the customer.

In April of this year, I decided to make it my obsession to procure my very own UCSB jersey, so I started by scanning the directory of UCSB Athletics and concluded that my best bet was to get in touch with the Director of Marketing, Branding and Sales.  Perfect!  I received a timely reply and was told he would check with the guy who runs the Gaucho Shop, and someone would get back to me.  According to the directory, the Gaucho Shop manager’s title was Assistant Athletics Director, Sales and External Relations with a reporting line to the aforementioned Director of Marketing.  I was definitely on the right track and in touch with the people that could help me on my quest for my very own jersey.  After all, I was interested in Sales, and on top of that, I was External Relations!

After not hearing from anyone for several days, I decided to reach out directly to the Assistant AD for Sales and External Relations.  In my e-mail, I outlined why a strong consideration might be made to sell UCSB replica jerseys and included a link to an article about the growth of soccer apparel.  I received a reply that cited cost as an impediment to selling the jerseys along with the inability to identify a vendor that could provide them at an acceptable cost and quality.  I proposed that since Nike already produced the current jersey, it might make sense to use them as the vendor.  I also suggested that they purchase a limited number of jerseys and see how they sell.  As a token of my confidence, I offered seed money to test the market… if the jerseys sell, I get my money back (they keep the profit), and if they don’t sell, I don’t get my money back.  No risk!  Here is an excerpt from the reply I received:

Unfortunately, our department/institution cannot accept such a kind offer (although, if we were allowed to, more offers like this would certainly help with a merchandise budget of our size).  The jerseys we order from Nike are custom and out the door cost around $180/piece to produce.  Our contract with Nike is not set up in such a way that facilitates retail, only for team services.  This is the reason we can only carry the most basic Nike products, such as t shirts, hats, etc., and not custom items ie. uniforms.

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! As someone who owns 20+ replica jerseys, this statement did not ring true.  Let’s start with the cost of $180 per jersey.  The highest quality jerseys on the market are “authentic” jerseys followed by “replica” jerseys which are very close to each other in appearance and quality.  Both types of jerseys can be purchased from about $40-$170, so a cost (wholesale cost, not retail cost) of $180 was simply not to be believed.  So, I set my mind to verifying those claims.

Since UCSB is a state of California entity, the university is legally obligated to produce documents by request per the Public Records Act.  I visited UCSB’s public records page and made a request pertaining to soccer purchases from the prior three years.  Additionally, I requested the contract Athletics had with Nike.

About 10 days later, I received a zip file that contained 2 pdf documents and 2 Excel spreadsheets that memorialized a host of purchases including boots, socks, shorts, balls, bags, and… jerseys!  The e-mail also included this note:

We do not have record of a contract with Nike. 

I looked through all the invoices for soccer jersey purchases from 2012-2016 and 2016-2017.  The purchase price ranged from $30-$40, and I confirmed these were match jerseys by referencing the Nike team catalog.  In fact, UCSB got a pretty nice discount on the jerseys as they bought them at about half the MSRP price.

Now, what to do with this information?  My ultimate goal was two-fold:

  1.  Buy a UCSB replica or match jersey for myself.
  2. Influence Athletics to sell replica jerseys to the public.

With regard to goal #2, I saw this as a win-win-win situation.

  1. As fans, we win by sporting the kit of our club with pride.
  2. The soccer program wins with free advertising and a more energized fan base.
  3. Athletics wins by turning a profit while also increasing visibility for itself.

Challenging the individuals within Athletics was likely going to prove unproductive as they seemed unmotivated to pursue the opportunity, perhaps for good reason.  Instead, I decided to again use the public records process to further demonstrate that the previously cited impediments weren’t impediments at all by proving the following:

  1. A jersey vendor will sell the same jerseys to the public as it does to the team (To counter the contract impediment).
  2. The jerseys can be purchased at a reasonable price (To counter the $180 wholesale cost impediment).

The missing piece, of course, was to demonstrate demand for the jerseys at a profitable price point.  Now, the UCSB trademark rightfully belongs to the university, and thus I am not legally entitled to use the trademarks for financial gain, so I could do nothing with the jerseys but keep them or give them away (no PayPal, no Venmo, no S&H, no future considerations… nothing!).  This was going to have to remain an art/civics project where I would redirect and sink my previously pledged seed money that I had hoped would be used to establish the viability of a profit margin and instead narrow the objective to obtain the jerseys at a reasonable wholesale cost… then give them away.  I was resigned to take a financial bath to do this with the hope that Athletics (or perhaps the soccer program) pursues the venture in the future.

After learning in late May that Athletics was switching from Nike to Adidas, I filed another public records request for documentation pertaining to the procurement of Adidas jerseys.  Unfortunately, the public records coordinator was not forthcoming with the requested documents, and I found it necessary to send 10 e-mails between May 31 and August 29 to follow up on my request.  Every time, I was informed the documents did not exist.  However, during that period of time, I had gleaned that the jerseys for the upcoming season had been ordered and later even received, yet along the way, I was not being provided the documents UCSB was legally obligated to provide.  Then finally, on August 29, I received order confirmation documents pertaining to the purchase of the jerseys, one for the white and one for the blue.  The day prior to receiving these documents, the public records coordinator offered this explanation for not providing the documents sooner:

After several conversations with our Procurement and Athletics Department, I have discovered that there are not any quote(s), invoice(s) or receipt(s) for the adidas men’s soccer jerseys. The jersey order was a comp order that is being deducted from the soccer team allotment per contract terms. However, I have requested a copy of the online jersey order, and I expect to have that to you no later than this Friday, September 1st.

Ok, fine. But frustratingly, the documents I received included an Order Date of May 26.  My initial public records request came just 5 days later, and yet it took 3 months and persistent follow-up to finally obtain the documents.  Had I been stonewalled?  Whatever the case, I finally had a promising lead with which to work, so upward and onward!

After communicating with a couple sales people within Adidas, I was put in touch with a retail vendor.  By referencing the order confirmations from the public records request, I was able to obtain the original UCSB orders for both the white and blue jerseys.  I was quoted a price of just $40 which included the custom design, logos, and jersey number.  I wasn’t a math major, but I’m quite sure that $40 is substantially less than $180.  Additionally, finding this vendor wasn’t as elusive or futile an effort as I was led me to believe it would be.  In reality, I was a mere 2 e-mails of separation away from the vendor.  Piece of cake, really.

It was now time to complete a major milestone of my project with the actual purchase of the jerseys.  So, I took a deep breath and placed a substantial order for both the white and blue jerseys.

After placing the order for the jerseys on September 21, I received a box on November 3.

Unpacking the box revealed 64 authentic UCSB soccer jerseys including  numbers which were included at no cost! Forty bones per jersey out the door!

When I say authentic, I mean the exact jersey.  Yeah, Feucht.

And the back.

In white too!

 

But what the hell am I going to do with 64 jerseys?  Athletics wasn’t interested in selling them, and as I stated previously, I have far too much respect for trademark laws to gain anything monetarily, so I decided to give them away to former players and fans I know that would appreciate the gesture.  Bye, bye, my sweet darlings!

Will I ultimately be successful in influencing Athletics to sell jerseys to the public?  There exist too many unknowns for me to predict the likelihood of that.  I don’t know if those I corresponded with within Athletics were dishing out a series of deal breakers simply to make me go away.  Hopefully the less cynical interpretation of them relaying stale and factually inaccurate information caused them to believe my idea was a non-starter.  Ultimately, I also don’t know if the venture would prove worthwhile even if Athletics chose to invest the time and expense into the endeavor.  However, I do know that if they were motivated to do so and saw merit in the venture, I now know they could.  Maybe, just maybe, with UCSB hosting the College Cup next year, with the way being shown, and with fans contacting Athletics asking for jerseys, it’s an idea that will grow some legs.

In the end, if nothing else, I was able to show appreciation to some of my favorite former players and dedicated fans that I’ve come to know over the past 15+ years who have all played integral parts in making UCSB soccer what it has become today.  Certainly no harm can come from spreading some goodwill.

I expect a number of jersey recipients to share with me photos with their new jerseys, so keep an eye out on this site and on my Twitter feed (@GauchoSoccer).  Personally, I ended up with Feucht and Iro (#4)… along with a few spares for my Sunday pickup games.

*****************************************

All the packages I sent arrived at their destination on November 6.  If you’ve been a longtime fan of UCSB soccer or basketball, you surely know Reza.  He seems to like the jerseys.

And what’s Reza without a cheer.

Of course, Big Mike has been a fixture at games for a long time.  In fact, we met back in 2005 when UCSB opened the season at a tourney hosted by UNLV.  Yeah, Vegas!  We witnessed Pontius’ first collegiate goal as a freshman!

Current UCSB student and co-host of the Futbol v Football podcast, Thomas Wheaton, really likes Rodney Michael, so he requested the #9 jersey.  Can’t disagree with that choice.

Bryan Byrne, national champion/winger/#7.

Kevin Garcia-Lopez,  opting to wear the blue jersey on this day.  Lightly recruited 5’6″ centerback converted to right back crowned 2014 Big West Conference Defender of the Year.  May or may not still answer to J-Lo.

Arthur Wilkie from KCSB Sports and the other half of the Futbol v Football podcast asked for the #6 jersey, motivated by Nick DePuy and sustained by Jan Ilskens.  Both are beasts, just like Arthur.

Long time UCSB fan, his son, and his doggo sporting their new jerseys.

Ish Jome chilling in the Minnesota United FC locker room.

Honorary Gaucho Girl Andrea is breaking up this sausage party. Jersey looks good (err, better) on the female of the species.

Sorry, fellas, but she’s taken by this #10 playmaker… none other than my bball counterpart, .

 

Other recipients include: Luis Silva, James Kiffe, Danny Barrera, Kyle Reynish, Dan Kennedy, Ema Boateng, Chris Pontius, Michael Boxall, Neil Jones, Drew McAthy, and a number of fans.  More pics to follow…