SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – With a top-tier recruiting class joining a roster that returns nearly every player from the 2018 season, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team looks poised to compete for the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
All quotes in this release were provided by head coach Tim Vom Steeg.
As good as the Gauchos were within the friendly confines of Harder Stadium, one of the program's struggles last season was getting goals on the road. With a plethora of attacking options in the fold in the new season, some new and others returning with another year of experience under their belts, Vom Steeg looks to fix that to give the squad the greatest chance of success in 2019.
Rodney Michael has been a consistent goal threat over his two seasons wearing the Gaucho blue and gold, scoring seven goals last season to complement his eight from his freshman year. The Sierra Leonean forward headlines UCSB's attacking options once again.
Ignacio Tellechea was utilized on the left side in all phases of the game in 2018, first on the left wing in a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations, then as a wingback in the 5-3-2 and 3-5-2. The Spaniard provided effective hold-up play that often led to chances, as his three assists show, but did not manage to get on the scoresheet until the Gauchos' lone postseason match against Cal State Fullerton. This year, he looks for a greater return as he will likely remain on the attacking side of the field.
Carter Clemmensen looks to continue his growth after a season in which he made headlines as the Top Drawer Soccer Player of the Week after his first two regular season matches at the Division I level. The 2017 Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year plays as an out-and-out striker and uses his tall frame to give him an advantage in the air.
Will Baynham and Ameyawu Muntari started for the Gauchos in the 1-0 exhibition win at LMU at striker and on the left wing, respectively. Though the game didn't lend itself to many quality chances for the Gauchos, both players were active in creating space, drawing fouls, and looking to get on the end of chances, which bodes well for each player's outlook in the upcoming campaign.
#16 Ameyawu Muntari – Junior – 5' 4" – 130 lbs – Accra, Ghana / Santa Barbara City College
"Ameyawu is a player who can play on either wing, as an underneath forward, or as an attacking midfielder. He's a dynamic, explosive player and can play very well in tight spaces. He could be a critical piece of our attack when the other team defends with a lot of numbers behind the ball."
#20 Will Baynham – Senior – 6' 3" – 176 lbs – Brisbane, Australia / Yavapai College
"Will is a traditional center forward. He's a player who is very comfortable with his back to the goal. He can score in many different ways and he's a player you can also combine through. He has a very good understanding of how to play the position and get himself into dangerous areas."
#23 Luka Živković – Freshman – 6' 0" – 160 – Mesa, Ariz. / Red Mountain H.S.
"Luka comes to UCSB having been named runner-up for the AZCentral Arizona Boys Soccer Player of the Year award and as an All-American nominee. He is an attacking player comfortable going to his left or right and can play any of the front four positions. He could be a player who could get us some good minutes and help get results."
Conteh played a crucial role in disrupting the opposing team's play in the defensive half of the field, cutting out passes and putting in well-timed challenges that led to chances for the Gauchos on the attack.
Candia led the team in assists last season, posting two multi-assist performances (at New Mexico, vs Cal Poly) en route to an impressive seven helpers.
Kaya Fabbretti looks to build off a stellar end to the past season, in which he found his scoring touch with goals in home wins against CSUN and Cal Poly. The San Jose Earthquakes Academy product is well on his way to doing so in his junior season after starting alongside Conteh, which gives him flexibility to move up the field and make deep runs, in each preseason game.
Freshman Finn Ballard McBride played a part in both preseason games, providing a spark in central midfield in a deeper role.
#13 Finn Ballard McBride – Freshman – 5' 11" – 171 lbs – Sydney, Australia / Newington College
"Finn is another player that we're anxiously awaiting to see where he might help us. We've seen him in midfield, on the wing, and at right back. There's versatility to his game and as we get comfortable with what he might help us with, we're excited to see what he adds to the roster."
#33 John Kim – Freshman – 6' 0" – 163 lbs – San Jose, Calif. / San Jose Earthquakes Academy
"John will add depth to our midfield, having originally come from San Jose Earthquakes academy. He has good skill, good size, and a good understanding of the game."
The core of the Gauchos' rock-solid defense from the 2018 season looks to continue making life difficult for opponents in 2019.
Centerback duo Hunter Ashworth and Faouzi Taieb commandeered the Gauchos to six clean sheets, all of them coming at Harder Stadium. In addition to their defensive prowess, the pair were uber-effective in the air on set pieces, combining for five goals and three assists.
Noah Billingsley provides an attacking threat on the right side, being able to contribute to the offense from his position as right wingback. The New Zealand international's conversion to that role was one of Vom Steeg's most successful experiments from the 2018 campaign.
Newcomer Lucas Gonzalez, a product of the LA Galaxy Academy, looks to provide a boost to UCSB's left back position, having been selected to start in and nearly playing every minute of the two exhibition matches in the preseason.
The only significant loss for the Gauchos in defense is Jan Ilskens, who served as one of the team's captains and established himself as a regular presence in central defense or as a defensive midfielder.
The UCSB backline showed incredible consistency over the course of last season whether at home or on the road, never allowing an opponent to score more than two goals, and only conceding two goals twice.
#31 Lucas Gonzalez – Freshman – 5' 6" – 146 lbs – Long Beach, Calif. / LA Galaxy Academy
"Lucas is probably the most versatile player that we've recruited in quite some time- he can play seven different positions. What separates him from everyone else is that he comes from an LA Galaxy academy side that has been producing some very high level players. He has a great left foot and excellent workrate that could see him have success on the left side in midfield or defense and as a defensive midfielder."
#19 Jesse Fitzgerald – Junior – 6' 1" – 165 lbs – Los Angeles, Calif. / Washington
#24 Justin Ali – Freshman – 5' 10" – 163 lbs - Pomona, Calif. / Diamond Ranch H.S.
#26 Tristan Miller – Redshirt Sophomore – 5' 8" – 151 lbs – Alamo, Calif. / Monte Vista H.S.
Roach started 17 games in his freshman campaign, with the Gauchos posting an 10-5-2 record in those matches. The Santa Barbara High School product had one of the best seasons in net for a freshman goalkeeper in UCSB history, holding opponents to a 0.73 goals against average en route to six clean sheets. His success saw him named as a Big West Co-Freshman of the Year and selected to the All-Big West Freshman Team.
Carrillo, whose play as a freshman earned him a spot on the 2017 Big West All-Freshman Team, appeared in two games last season. He made five saves against Sacramento State on October 3 in his only start.
#29 Kyle Rudd – Junior – 6' 0" – 165 lbs - San Ramon, Calif. / Las Positas College
#40 Colin Sneddon – Redshirt Senior – 6' 1" – 190 lbs – Mill Valley, Calif. / College of Marin
Season tickets for the 2019 UCSB men's soccer season, with a parking pass included, are still available. Click here for more information or call the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.
The Gauchos open the regular season against UNLV tomorrow night following the conclusion of the women's soccer game against Cal. Kickoff is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m.