Young Gauchos have the makings of something big

“… We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun…”

—From the song “We Are Young” by the group Fun.

There was a time early in his collegiate coaching career that UCSB’s Tim Vom Steeg was reluctant to put freshman players in his starting 11.

That was then.

With the talented group of freshmen he’s brought in this season, Vom Steeg says 4-5 first-year players might be in his starting 11 when the Gauchos kick off the season in Charleston, S.C., in two weeks.

“Of the 9-10 freshmen we’re talking about here, like last year, easily half of them have an opportunity to start in that first game,” Vom Steeg said following the team’s first official practice for the 2014 campaign at Dunn School in Los Olivos.

Vom Steeg has one of the youngest teams in his 16-year career at UCSB. Moreover, the roster is one of the most talented, top to bottom.

“We haven’t been this deep talent-wise,” he said. “I probably have to go back 4-5 years. They’re young but they’re very good,” he said.

UCSB SEASON SCHEDULE

The youngsters include a quartet from the L.A. Galaxy Academy: Axel Mendez, Ryo Fujii, Jeff Quezada and Adonis Amaya; Dugan Zier from the New York Red Bulls Academy and Alex Liua of San Jose Earthquakes Academy

The goal for Vom Steeg and his staff will be getting everyone on the same page offensively and defensively.

“That’s going to be the real challenge for us, to be patient enough,” he said. “The only promise we made to this recruiting class was they’d have an opportunity to compete for a starting spot, or at least a lot of playing time. It’s a young team, but we’re very excited as a coaching staff.”

The Gaucho youth movement actually started last season with Ismaila Jome, Nick DePuy, Drew Murphy and goalkeeper Josh McNeely. They made an impact as freshmen, helping UCSB win the Big West regular season title and return to the NCAA Tournament. Returnees like Kevin “J-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, Duncan Backus, Brandon Brockway in the back Marshall Cazares and Adam Carn-Saferstein also stepped up and made their presence known in matches.

Their experience and talent combined with this exceptional recruiting class give Vom Steeg lots of options.

“This will be the best soccer-playing team we’ve had since the days we had Chris Pontius, like 2010 when we had (Luis) Silva, (Danny) Barrera and Pontius, or even the year before,” Vom Steeg said.

The coach looks forward to the day when all the pieces fall into place and the team starts operating like Germany did against Brazil in the World Cup.

“At some point, this thing is going to come together and it’s going to come together in a big way,” he said. “It’s something that’s going to come together for the next two, three, four years – next year’s recruiting class is a great class as well.

“This thing is really going to blow up,” he continued. “The issue for us (this season) will be can we get out of some games in the first seven-eight games? Can we just find a way to win some things? Can somebody step up and win a couple of games. If we get this thing going, I don’t think anyone should play us at end of this year.”

The Gauchos make their debut on Saturday night, Aug. 23 when they play Westmont in their annual exhibition match at Harder Stadium.

“Anyone that comes to the Westmont game will be amazed at level of soccer on the field,” Vom Steeg said. “We haven’t had this level of play. What we can do and what we can ask our guys to do because of their skill level is completely different than what’ve done.”

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