Gauchos nab their first U-20 team recruit

One of the nation’s highest-touted transfers, who is also a product of the United States U-20 National Team, Sam Garza, headlines the 2010 UCSB men’s soccer recruiting class, which was announced today by head coach Tim Vom Steeg.

Joining Garza on the 2010 fall roster will be National Letter of Intent signees Eric Reyes (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), Austin Mansker (San Jose, Calif.), Fifi Baiden (Ajumako, Ghana), Jonathan Canales (Santa Ana, Calif.), Rey Ezra-Simbwa (San Diego, Calif.) and Matt Thayer (Loomis, Calif.), as well as Yavapai College transfers Chris Hunter and Evan McNeil.

Garza, who hails from Highland Village, Texas, is transferring to UCSB from the University of Denver and will be the first U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team product to play for the Gauchos. With the U-20 team he was a finalist at the 2009 U-20 World Cup Qualifying in Trinidad and Tobago. He also traveled to Egypt and Argentina with the team. Prior to joining the U.S. U-20 team, he played with the North Texas 89 State Olympic Development Team from 2004-07, Region III 89 ODP team from 2005-07 and the 89 Region II team.

“He is an important player at this time for our program,” Vom Steeg said. “After losing David Walker (who was drafted in the third round of MLS SuperDraft by the Houston Dynamo), we were looking to add not just another forward to our program, but one that has great experience and that can contribute right away.”

At the University of Denver, Garza earned Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Year honors in 2008, as well as College Soccer News Freshman Third Team and All-Rookie Second Team accolades. In his first season with the Pioneers, he recorded four goals and four assists and led the team with 31 shots on goal. He missed the 2009 season due to an injury.

The forward played at Marcus High School where he was a four-year starter for the Marauders. A heavily decorated prep athlete, Garza earned NSCAA High School All-American honors, was named the 2008 Texas State Tournament MVP after leading Marcus to back-to-back state championships and was the 2007-08 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year (he was the runner-up the previous season). Coming out of high school the two-time Rise Magazine All-Area Team pick was named the No. 22 recruit in the nation by the publication.

“He is very good on the ball, he can play with his back to the goal, he can turn and run at people,” Vom Steeg continued. “He is a different type of forward than what we’ve had here in the past, but his approach to the game fits us very well.”

With two upperclassmen goalkeepers in the program – Sam Hayden and Kristopher Minton – the UCSB coaching staff made the recruitment of the next generation of Gaucho goaltenders and priority and have signed two high school seniors to NLI’s this year.

Eric Reyes is a native of Pembroke Pines, Florida where he attends University School at NSU. The goalkeeper is currently still in the playoffs with the Suns and is on-pace to set a new school record with his 0.13 goals against average this season. While at University School, Reyes has helped lead his team to three District Championships and a Florida State Championship as a freshman. He is a two-time ESPN Rise selection earning Third Team High School All-American honors last season and First Team All-South Florida accolades this season.

Reyes has played on numerous club and national teams including the U.S. U-14 and U-15 National Teams and the Puerto Rico U-21 Men’s National Team, which he will be heading to the 2010 Caribbean and Central American Games with this summer. In 2009, he was named the Super Y-League National Team MVP by a unanimous vote of opposing coaches.

Austin Mansker of San Jose, Calif. is currently a senior at Valley Christian High School and is a highly decorated goalkeeper. Mansker was a First Team All-West Catholic Athletic League selection in 2008, the same year he was named the WCAL’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year. In 2008, he also was named the Central Coast Section’s Sophomore of the Year by the San Jose Mercury News and was picked as an All-Bay Area First Team selection by Rise Magazine. Mansker was also twice named San Jose Mercury News’ First Team All-CCS Goalkeeper in 2008 and 2009.

At the club level, Mansker has played with De Anza Force Academy since 2007. He has also been called into the U.S. U-17 National Team minicamps on two occasions: August of 2008 and December of 2008.

“It was very important to bring in two young goalkeepers who we can develop over the course of the next one or two years,” Vom Steeg said. “They are similar in that they are very big and powerful and they both play at a very high level with their academies. Both of them remind us of former Gaucho greats. Mansker is more in the mold of Kyle Reynish in his shot stopping abilities. Reyes’ passion and commitment to the game reminds me of All-American Danny Kennedy.”

In addition to a pair of goalies, the UCSB coaching staff has also added three talented midfielders to the 2010 roster, increasing the depth of an already talented-laden Gaucho midfield.

Fifi Baiden originally hails from Ajumako, Ghana and will become the third native of the country to be added to the roster alongside sophomores Michael Tetteh and Waid Ibrahim. Baiden has spent the last three years playing for Dunn School in Los Olivos, Calif. Playing at both midfield and forward, Baiden was recently named the Earwigs’ Most Valuable Player in 2009 and has also earned the Sportsmanship Award and Most Inspirational Award.

Playing for the Santa Barbara Soccer Club, Baiden has helped his team to the 2009 OC Classic Kickoff Championship, the 2009 Nike Harvest Cup finals, the 2008 Hawaii International Cup Championship and the 2008 Copa Real Cup finals.

Jonathan Canales hails from Santa Ana, Calif. and is currently a senior at JSerra Catholic High School where he plays center midfield and sweeper for the Lions. The two-time team captain was a First Team All-Trinity League selection as a sophomore.

Canales has played club soccer with West Coast FC since 2005 with which he was a League Cup Finalist in 2006 and 2007. He has also played for the Cal South ODP team and the Region IV team. In 2008-09, Canales participated in the U.S. U-17 National Team Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida.

Ezra-Simbwa is currently a senior at Rancho Bernardo High School where his team is currently in first place in the Palomar League. The midfielder plays club soccer for FC San Diego. He has spent the past three years playing for the SoCal ODP team and played for the Region IV team in 2008 and 2009. Ezra-Simbwa was also invited to the Adidas ESP Camp in 2009 and was an All-Star participant.

“All three of these talented players are going to have to really fight to see time on the field with the midfielders we have returning, but at the same time, these players will have to be able to step in if needed. I think, because of their backgrounds, they will be able to help us right away and are also good additions for the future of our program.”

Matt Thayer, who hails from Loomis, Calif. and is currently a senior at Jesuit High School, rounds out the list of signees. The center back helped lead the Marauders to the 2009 CIF Northern Section Championship and a No. 2 final NSCAA High School Ranking. Thayer is a two-time Delta River All-League Player that helped Jesuit set the California shutout record in 2009 with 22. He served as the varsity team captain and was the team’s defensive MVP.

At the club level, Thayer has spent seven years with Placer United Prestige and he also spent one year playing for the California Developmental Academy in the U.S. Soccer Academy Program.

“Thayer is a tough, durable defender that plays for a very good club team,” Vom Steeg said. “He has covered some of the best players on the west coast. He brings a lot of toughness and he is another player we see developing over time.”

Also being officially added to the roster this fall are 2009 recruits, defenders Chris Hunter and Evan McNeil, who were officially admitted into UCSB in January and will be eligible to compete during the 2010 season. Hunter and McNeil are both transfers from Yavapai College where, along with Hayden, they won consecutive Division I National College Athletic Association titles and posted a combined 60-2 record during their two seasons with the team.

UCSB will be returning the majority of its squad that posted a 17-5-2 overall record, captured the Big West regular season title after going 8-1-1 in conference play, advanced to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament and ended the season ranked No. 10 by the NSCAA. Among the expected returners are eight All-Big West selections, including the Big West Goalkeeper of the Year, Hayden; Midfielder of the Year, Danny Barrera; and Freshman of the Year, Machael David.

Vom Steeg and his staff anticipate signing two more players before the end of the signing period this summer.

This coming fall, UCSB will host the 2010 NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium on Dec. 10 and 12. For more information on this exciting event, click here.

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