UCLA has always been a powerhouse for developing top talent. The SoCal school has always practiced a possession-style game that most college programs stay away from. This year, the Bruins are looking to take last year’s epic semi-final final performance against UNC to the next level and bring the title back to LA. After losing 12 players from last season, the Bruins have been attempting to rebuild while gunning for the national title. And as the top team in the Pac-12 and third in the nation, the team is on par to fight for that cup. Here’s a look at some of the key components of their squad:
Ryan Hollingshead – Hollingshead turned heads with his performance in last year’s College Cup when he shined as the playmaker in the Bruin’s epic semi-final loss to UNC. However, MLS scouts and college soccer fans everywhere have always rated Hollingshead highly. The midfielder from Granite Bay, California is the key to UCLA’s possession-oriented game – even if he’s not scoring or assisting goals.
Fernando Monge – The midfielder/forward from Seattle, Washington is a solid force for the Bruins. He has played this season as a center midfielder, but in the past has been in various positions in the offense. He is said to be ready for the professional level, however, where he will play on the field is another question. The key with Monge is that he spends his summers playing for the Seattle Sounders’ U-23 PDL team. It’s doubtful that this will result in a Home Grown contract as he was not a member of their youth academy before going to UCLA, but you never know.
Joe Sofia – While UCLA is touted for their strong offense, they also have a great defense. Joe Sofia anchors the backline for the Bruins and has helped lead the Bruins to their 12-2-2 record. Since he is a junior, we may not see him participate in the draft this year, but he is definitely someone to keep an eye out for.
Matt Wiet – Wiet is another player who may have to change positions for the professional level. Currently playing as a center back, his smaller size may impede him from playing there as a pro, but he still has the quality to make it at the top level. He does happen to be a product of the Columbus Crew Academy, so we may not see him in the draft.
Grady Howe – One of the top-rated freshman in the country, Grady Howe also comes from an academy system – the LA Galaxy’s. This midfielder turned right back has helped solidify the Bruins defense this year, and is sure to be a name in MLS in the years to come.
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