Brand, Cukar Headline Soccer's All-Conference Picks

Woodland, Calif. - The San Jose State University men’s soccer program had six players chosen for All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honors on Tuesday, November 18

Ed Brand and Nick Cukar made the 12-person first team, and Hiroki Akiyama and Colby Moore the 11-player second team, while Sam Shore and sophomore newcomer Josh Boemecke were among 11 performers to pick up honorable mention.

The All-MPSF distinctions were the fourth for Brand, third for Akiyama, second for Cukar and first for Moore, Shore and Boemecke. Brand joins an elite group in San Jose State program history, as one of only three known players to earn all-conference honors in all four years. Johnny Gonzalez (2002-05) and Frank Sanfilippo (2000-03) had previously accomplished the feat. Brand is now a two-time first-team and one-time second-team selection, while garnering honorable mention as a freshman in 2005.

Brand (London, England/Elliott School), a senior now in his third turn as a team captain, again anchored the defense in 2008 as a Spartan center back. He started all 17 games in which he played, and added a goal offensively on a penalty kick in the final minute of regulation during a 2-2 home draw against Cal Poly on September 18. He finished his college career with 67 starts among 68 appearances, with six goals, all coming from the penalty spot, and three assists, for 15 total points.

Cukar (Millbrae, Calif./Capuchino HS) followed up a breakout sophomore campaign with an even better junior season, leading the Spartans with 18 total points from a team-best nine goals, remarkably with a conference-best seven of them game-winners. The goals and points also put him in a tie for first and a tie for second, respectively, in the MPSF. The left-sided midfielder was the only San Jose State player to appear in all 18 games this season, staring each one. Cukar, who earned All-MPSF honorable mention in 2007, now has 15 goals for his college career.

“I think obviously that Nick had a season that was unbelievable,” remarked Gary St. Clair, who just concluded his 19th year at the helm of his alma mater. “He was being considered for Player of the Year, but the fact that we did not win the conference, worked against him. The statistics he posted, with the game-winning goals, and the total number of goals scored, all from the left side of midfield, was quite something. It is very unusual to have someone with that kind of offensive production from his position.

“Ed had another good, solid season for us, as you would come to expect out of your captain. The MPSF coaches think quite highly of Ed.

“We didn’t have any other players on the first team, only because of a lack of space. That was certainly the case for Hiroki. He had another solid season. Everybody else in the conference knows him and respects him.”

Akiyama (Muroran, Japan/Muroran Sakae HS) made the All-MPSF second team for a third successive season. The midfield general, specializing as a holding defensive player, finished in a tie for third on the team points chart, with a career-best 12 from three goals and a career-high six assists. He played in 17 games, starting 16. Akiyama started 60 of 66 games played in his four years at San Jose State, contributing eight goals and nine assists for 25 total points.

Moore is a first-time All-MPSF honoree from Los Gatos, Calif., and nearby Bellarmine College Prep. He started all 17 matches in which he appeared in 2008, primarily as the lone Spartan striker up front, and finished as the MPSF leader in assists with eight. Moore produced 10 total points, adding a single goal in a 3-3 tie at first-time champion Denver on October 31.

“Colby was a nice surprise,” added St. Clair. “He was the conference leader in assists. His goal total was down, but that was largely because we played with just one striker all year. The honor was well-deserved for Colby.”

Shore (Sydney, Australia/University of Sydney) and Boemecke (O’Fallon, Ill./Saint Louis University) are both first-time all-conference honorees. Shore started all 15 matches in which he appeared in his third and final season as a Spartan, as the central defensive partner of Brand. He posted a career-high two assists offensively. Boemecke was in his first campaign as a Spartan, following a transfer from Saint Louis, and was a stalwart in central midfield in a holding position all season long. He started all 16 games that he played in, and helped on one goal.

“Josh and Sam were two solid, legitimate, all-conference players,” St. Clair concluded. “They both had solid years. They play positions that you wouldn’t expect to see a lot of offensive statistics from, as a holding central midfielder and a center back, but they had as much to do with our success as anyone.

“Overall, I was pleased that the selections were a fair representation of how our players performed this season.”

Denver swept the top awards, with senior forward Kyle Christensen the Player of the Year, freshman forward Sam Garza the Newcomer of the Year, and second-year head man Bobby Muuss the 2008 MPSF Coach of the Year.

The Spartans ended the season unbeaten in their last six matches after an 0-4 start to the MPSF slate via four one-goal losses, the first three of which were on the road. San Jose State won four in a row at the back end of that stretch, finishing with an above-.500 overall record for a second year in a row, at 9-5-4, and an above-.500 MPSF mark (5-4-1) for the first time since 2005. San Jose State wound up alone in third place with 16 points, behind first-time champion and the MPSF’s lone NCAA Championship representative, Denver, and New Mexico.

New Mexico, which had won the past four league crowns, and San Jose State, were left out of the field of 48 when the bracket announcement was made on Monday afternoon, November 17.

San Jose State was listed ninth in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas Far West poll, after being among two other teams receiving votes the previous week. The Spartans also moved up from 137th to 94th out of 203 NCAA Division I men’s soccer programs, in the most recent RPI release, through games played on Sunday, November 9.