College Soccer News Previews Spartan Men's Program

Leading national on-line men's soccer publication College Soccer News recently profiled the Spartans as part of its 2008 preview.

(From College Soccer News - Posted Monday, July 7, 2008)

San Jose State - With nine starters back from the 2007 team the Spartans will have more experience and more depth than they have had in several years. The major unanswered question surrounding San Jose State entering the 2008 season, and it is a big one, is who is going to provide the offensive firepower that departed with the graduation of senior forwards Ismael Ibarra (9g, 3a) and Julio Gonzalez (6g, 1a). Ibarra, who was a First Team All-Mountain Pacific Soccer Federation selection and the lone MPSF player named to the NSCAA All-Far West Region First Team, was an extremely dangerous player with the ball to his feet in the attacking third.

Last year the Spartans were 10-9-0 overall with a 5-5-0 mark in MPSF action which was good for a third place finish in league play behind powerhouse New Mexico which has now won four consecutive MPSF Championships and upstart Denver which looks to be a program on the rise.

Gary St. Clair will enter his nineteenth season as the head coach at San Jose State in 2008 seeking to capture the MPSF title and to get his team back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2003 campaign. For that to happen the Spartans are going to have to find a way to maintain the offensive productivity which has generally been a strength in the past while significantly tightening things up on the defensive side of the ball. In 2007 San Jose State put the ball in the back of the net 37 times while allowing opponents to score 32 times. New Mexico in particular abused the Spartan defense scoring nine times in two encounters.

Junior forward Colby Moore (5g, 1a) is among the returning players who is capable of adding additional punch to the Spartan attack. Redshirt freshman forward Brent Young is among others who St. Clair will look to for goals in 2008.

Senior Hiroki Akiyama, who was a Second Team All-MPSF selection last year, returns to anchor what should be an experienced, deep, and talented group of midfielders. Look for Akiyama’s ability to control the tempo of play and maintain possession in the middle third to impact the effectiveness of the Spartan attack. Junior midfielder Nick Cukar (6g, 2a) who tallied three game-winners last year will provide another dimension to the attack. Cukar is equally effective as a center midfielder or out wide. Sophomore Ricky Dorrego (0g, 5a) and Efrain Burgos, Jr. performed well in starting roles last year which bodes well for their effectiveness in 2008. Junior Brian McGuire and redshirt freshman Robert Jackson should also be in the mix in the midfield.

Senior Ed Brand (2g, 0a) who was a Second Team All-MPSF selection last year and senior Sam Shore (1g, 1a) who is a 6’ 5” ball winner return to give the Spartans two experienced and solid center backs. Brand is a multi-year captain and is the man who will set the pace for the entire team. Senior Gavin Wenyon (0g, 3a) who has been a starter for the past three seasons and junior Oscar Monjaras who is a tenacious marker return to round out a backline that has the potential to be much improved. Redshirt freshmen Kachiside Madu, Dan Addiego and Boyah Kaar are among other defenders who will challenge for playing time.

Seniors Richard Mann and Lewis Sweeney return in goal to give the Spartans two experienced netminders. Mann had two shutouts last year with a 1.97 goals against average in nine starts while Sweeney posted three shutouts with a 1.38 goals against average in ten starts.

Critical success factors for San Jose State include the ability of the forwards to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that come their way, the ability of the midfielders to maintain possession and get the best of the run of play in the middle third, and the extent to which the twelve true freshmen who were redshirted in 2007 can positively impact the overall level of play.

New Mexico will clearly be the team to beat in the six team MPSF in 2008 but several other teams will definitely have a say about the final outcome of the MPSF race. The emergence of a higher level of competitiveness at both Denver and UNLV and the fact that San Jose State has the potential to field a very competitive side in 2008 means that the MPSF race will again be highly contested.

The pieces are there for San Jose State to have another ten win season in 2008. A level that the Spartans have attained in eight seasons so far under the guidance of St. Clair. Depth and experience should be big plusses for the Spartans in 2008. However, the bottom line is that without significant improvement in the level of play on both sides of the ball San Jose State is an unlikely candidate for one of the top two spots in the MPSF and a shot at postseason tournament action.

St. Clair has announced the addition of four new recruits who will join the Spartans in 2008. He stated, “I would characterize this as an outstanding class. We were looking for quality. We had a very good recruiting class last year, with high numbers. This year, I think that all four of these guys will make an immediate impact in our program.”

Mauricio Murillo, Jr., is a midfielder from Santa Clara, Calif., out of Wilcox High School. Murillo has been a member of the Region IV ODP team and was a First Team All-League selection in high school play. He plays club for the Mount Hamilton Lobitos. Kyle Novak is a 6’ 4” goalkeeper from Eugene, Ore., out of Winston Churchill High School. He is a member of the Oregon and Region IV ODP teams. Novak plays club for FC Portland. Steven Sanchez is a forward from San Jose out of Piedmont Hills High School where he was a First Team All-BVAL selection. He tallied twenty goals and contributed ten assists his senior season. Sanchez plays club with the Mount Hamilton Lobitos. Sanchez could make an immediate contribution to the Spartan attack. Oscar Yniguez is a midfielder from Redwood City out of Woodside High School. He plays club soccer for Juventus Sport Club and is a member of the Cal-North ODP team. Yniguez was a First Team All-PAL Bay Division selection.