Feature: Soccer Star Zizzo Leaves UCLA for Professional Game
July 30, 2007
By Bobby Gordon
July 30, 2007
Los Angeles, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Sal Zizzo's bags are packed.
The former standout for the UCLA men's soccer team inked a three-year deal Wednesday to play for Hannover 96 in Germany's Bundesliga.
Zizzo is the second Bruin in as many years to leave the confines of Drake Stadium early in favor of a soccer career in Germany. One year ago, forward Kamani Hill opted to head abroad, signing with Wolfsburg.
'(Zizzo) needed to move on,' UCLA teammate Greg Folk said. 'The money and the deal were right. It would have almost been stupid for him not to go.'
Zizzo refused to enter the MLS draft last January, but the eventual move to a European team was likely for the San Diego native. It was less costly for European teams to sign him because he already has a European passport.
The midfielder has also put together a string of successful play that attracted the eyes of several European clubs. He made a name for himself on an international level with the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team, helping the U.S. take its group and complete a stunning upset over the Brazilian side.
Zizzo played on the right side with star striker Freddy Adu and had two assists in the tournament. He started in all five of the team's games and played a total of 430 minutes.
The speedy winger came on strong at the right time last year for the Bruins as well, leading them to the national-title game in an impressive NCAA Tournament run highlighted by a stunning two-goal performance against Duke in UCLA's 3-2 quarterfinal win.
Zizzo had 23 points on the season and was named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American, a year after being named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
His stellar season at UCLA and his play with the U.S. U-20 team culminated in the signing with Hannover. It was the 96ers' sixth signing of the offseason.
While Zizzo is not the first Bruin to join the German league, it was actually fellow San Diegan and U.S. National Team staple Steve Cherundolo who helped the young player make his decision. Cherundolo, who left the University of Portland after his sophomore year to join the club, called up Zizzo's parents to convince them that the club in northern Germany was the right fit.
Zizzo left last week to train in Germany. Hannover 96 noted that they plan to play him as a wide midfielder.
'He is very quick and talented,' Hannover coach Dieter Heckning told Yanks Abroad, a soccer Web site. 'Sal is a player who will be part of our future, and we're happy he signed with us.'
Zizzo, who would have been a junior next year, leaves behind a team hoping to make it back to the title game and find a different result.
When coach Jorge Salcedo and the Bruins begin the 2007 campaign on the road at Notre Dame in little more than a month from now, the team will look a lot like it did last year.
'We didn't lose too many guys,' Folk said. 'Just (Eric) Reed, Kyle (McClung) and Zizzo. And we have guys that can step in like Chance Myers. He started for the U.S. in the Pan-American games and he hasn't even been starter at UCLA.'
While Zizzo's speed will be missed, the Bruins are better prepared for the departure of seniors Reed and McClung.
Replacing Reed in goal will be Brian Perk who had a strong showing when he got an appearance with the U.S. U-20 national team. With regular starter Chris Seitz having to sit out a game because of injury, Perk got a FIFA U-20 World Cup appearance, and came up big with seven saves to help the team beat Uruguay.
Perk looks to maintain the tradition of dominant goalkeepers for UCLA.
Salcedo also retains much of his defense, including senior Mike Zaher, and has redshirt senior Brandon Owens rejoining the lineup after an ACL injury sidelined him in 2006.
The Bruins will play their first home game on Sept. 14 against Ohio State.
(C) 2007 Daily Bruin via CSTV U-WIRE