Aug. 17, 2006
San Bruno, CA -With the men's soccer season starting up in just over a week, the WCC has been represented by two teams in the national preseason polls. San Francisco, the two-time defending WCC champion, has been ranked as high as No. 17 in the preseason listings, while Bay Area rival Santa Clara has been ranked in a pair of preseason polls.
The Dons earned a No. 17 preseason rank in the Soccer America preseason poll that was released on Thursday, and were also listed at No. 22 in the College Soccer News preseason top-30. The Broncos were ranked No. 20 in the NSCAA/adidas preseason coaches poll, and at No. 26 in the College Soccer News listing.
San Francisco claimed its second straight WCC title in 2005, going undefeated in its last five conference contests to claim the league crown. The Dons will rely on a solid core of seven returning starters including forward Aaron Chandler, the 2004 WCC Player of the Year, and defender Rob Valentino, the 2005 WCC Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler followed up a phenomenal 2004 season with an impressive junior campaign, as the forward tallied a team-high six goals and pitched in with six assists. Chandler will team with junior Brandon McDonald (3g, 1a) and sophomore Ben Dessard (2g, 5a) in the attack, while midfield creator Matt Languis (4g, 7a) sets the attacking tone in the middle portion of the field. Junior Jordan Keyes (1g, 2a) and senior Robert Smith (2g, 1a) should also see increased action in the USF midfield. Head Coach Erik Visser will have to compensate for the loss of first team All-WCC defender Luis Aguilar, but the backline should be in good shape with the return of Valentino and U.S. U-20 team veteran Kevin Long. Second team All-WCC goalkeeper Geremy Uhl (61 saves, 0.77 GAA) also returns after leading the WCC with nine shutouts a year ago. Uhl enters the season tied for eighth on the WCC career shutouts chart with 17.
The Broncos earned the program's third straight post-season selection following a 13-6-3 campaign, and advanced to the second round before falling to Cal in penalty kicks. Head Coach Cameron Rast's squad should challenge for the WCC title once again despite the loss of several key players, as the No. 15 ranked recruiting group according to College Soccer News joins up with six starters along with the team's leading scorer from a year ago. Super-sub Keith DeVey (6g, 4a) led the team in goals and points last season, and came on to score several clutch goals as a late game substitute. Aiding DeVey in the attack will be second team All-WCC midfielder Peter Lowry (4g, 4a) and sophomore Jide Ogunbiyi (3g, 1a), who may also see action in the SCU defense. Senior Erik Ustruck (2g, 2a) lends pace to the midfield and can also contribute in the attack. The Broncos are solid on defense, welcoming back juniors Matt Marquess and Jamil Roberts (1g, 1a) on the backline, and juniors Matt Hatzke (1g, 1a) and Brian Curry in the midfield. Santa Clara's main question mark will be in goal where sophomore Joe Buttitta and redshirt freshman Ari Zlotoff, two goalkeepers that have yet to play a minute in college, will battle for the starting job.
All seven WCC men's soccer teams begin the 2006 campaign on the weekend of August 25, with San Francisco and Santa Clara taking part in the second annual WCC-Pac-10 Classic. The Dons and Broncos will each play Bay Area rivals California and Stanford during the opening weekend of the 2006 season.