July 16, 2013

Gauchos in the Pros: Silva Joins Pontius in D.C., Several UCSB Alumni Continue to Thrive in MLS

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After spending a year and a half with the team that made him UC Santa Barbara's highest MLS SuperDraft selection ever at fourth overall in 2012, 24-year old midfielder Luis Silva was traded by Toronto FC to D.C. United on July 9 in exchange for allocation money.

The trade opens the way for Silva to reunite with former UCSB teammate Chris Pontius in Washington. Silva and Pontius played together for one season at Harder Stadium, with both making the All-Big West Team in 2008.

After being drafted, Silva quickly worked his way up the Toronto FC depth chart, eventually breaking through to make 30 first-team appearances in his rookie season, netting five goals and five assists in the process.  In 14 appearances so far in the 2013 season, the Gauchos' all-time single season points leader had picked up a pair of assists.

In the nation's capital, he figures to play in an attacking midfield position. Silva had featured in the midfield and at forward while playing for Toronto.

The Los Angeles native finished his UCSB career as one of the most decorated players in program history. A four-time All-Big West selection, Silva holds the program record for matches played (88) while ranking fourth in career points (79) and sixth in career goals (28).

Former Gaucho midfielder Eric Avila, who was traded to Chivas USA by the Colorado Rapids in January, was granted a two-week trial with parent club Chivas Guadalajara that ended earlier this month. Though he was returned stateside, the two clubs have not ruled out a future loan or transfer for the attacking midfielder, according to a Chivas USA spokesperson.

Ironically, Avila's first appearance for the Mexican side came against Chivas USA in a friendly. His cross in the 73rd minute was tapped in by Erick Torres for the game's only goal.

Avila has thrived for the Red-and-White in MLS play this season, tying for the team lead in goals (two) while ranking second in starts (15) and minutes (1,383). He scored in his second appearance after returning from Mexico, netting Chivas' only goal in a 1-1 draw at Montreal.

The 2005 Big West Freshman of the Year and scorer of the game-winning goal in the 2006 National Championship game for the Gauchos, Avila was originally selected with the 19th overall pick of the 2008 SuperDraft by FC Dallas.

Avila's Chivas USA teammate Dan Kennedy has continued to be a reliable option in the net for his squad, having played every minute of every game so far in 2013 while registering one shutout. His 64 saves currently rank fourth among MLS keepers.

The Chivas team captain also notched his first professional goal in a May 28 match against the LA Blues by slotting home a 66th minute penalty kick, a goal that allowed the Goats to advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

Kennedy has parlayed a stellar four-year career at UCSB – he has program marks in careers matches, minutes, wins, and shutouts – into a stint as one of the most consistent keepers in the MLS. After earning a starting spot with the Goats in 2011, Kennedy was named the Chivas USA Player of the Year and followed that up with a 17-shutout campaign in 2012 that saw him feature in the MLS All-Star Game.

Fellow UCSB alum and 2012 MLS All-Star Chris Pontius has had a tougher go of things in the 2013 season, putting away just one goal so far, though he leads D.C. United with two assists while placing second in minutes (1,263) and starts (14).

His lone goal, an 11th minute penalty kick on Jun. 22 against the San Jose Earthquakes, ended a club-record 13 game winless streak for D.C. United.

A 2008 All-American and UCSB's fifth-highest goal scorer in program history, Pontius was drafted seventh overall in the 2009 SuperDraft. After scoring 13 goals over his first three seasons in the nation's capital, he broke out last year by scoring 12 goals over 31 appearances.

His aforementioned All-Star appearance was capped off with an MVP award after he scored a 73rd minute equalizer against English Premier League side Chelsea at PPL Park in Philadelphia, Penn.

To track UCSB alumni playing in the professional ranks, be sure to check here.

Don't miss your chance to catch this year's squad in action at Harder Stadium. UCSB men's soccer season tickets are now on sale for the 2013 season.  This year, the Gauchos host top talent from all over the country including Stanford, Cal Poly and 2012 NCAA Sweet-16 participant New Mexico.

For more information drop by the Ticket Office in the ICA Building on campus, call 805-893-UCSB (8272) or on-line by clicking here