Men's Soccer Team Opens 2001 Season At Virginia Soccer Classic

Aug. 27, 2001

THIS WEEK -- Head coach Todd Saldana's UCLA men's soccer team (12-7 in 2000, ranked No. 7 by Soccer America, No. 24 by the NSCAA) will kick off the 2001 season with two matches against highly-touted ACC teams at the Virginia Soccer Classic in Charlottesville, VA. First up for UCLA is a first-time meeting against No. 15 Maryland on Friday, Aug. 31 at 5:00 pm Eastern, followed by a battle between host and third-ranked Virginia on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 2:30 pm Eastern.

ABOUT THE OPPONENTS -- Maryland finished the 2000 season with a 10-9 record after seeing their roster depleted with multiple injuries. The Terrapins are led by senior captain Beckett Hollenbach. Last year, Virginia went 17-6-1 en route to the NCAA quarterfinals. Two Hermann Trophy candidates highlight Virginia's roster - Alecko Eskandarian and Kyle Martino. UCLA leads the series with the Cavaliers, 4-1, and has won the last three meetings, including a 2-0 win at Virginia in the 1999 NCAA quarterfinals.

FORMER U-20 TEAMMATES FACE OFF -- U.S. Under-20 national team teammates from UCLA, Virginia and Maryland will reunite this weekend on opposing sides. UCLA has two U-20 players in sophomore defenders Nelson Akwari and Alex Yi. Akwari was the team captain for the U.S. at the World Youth Championships this past summer. Virginia has three U-20 players - Kenny Arena, Alecko Eskandarian and Kyle Martino - while Maryland has one in defender Phillip Salyer.

ALEX YI SELECTED AS HERMANN TROPHY CANDIDATE -- Defender Alex Yi was selected as a nominee for the Hermann Trophy, college soccer's longest-standing player of the year award. Yi was the 2000 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-Pac-10 selection a year ago. He was one of just three players to start all 19 of UCLA's games in 2000.

BRUINS RANKED NO. 7 IN SOCCER AMERICA PRE-SEASON POLL -- UCLA received the No. 7 pre-season ranking by Soccer America Magazine. The Bruins will face six teams in the Top 20, including No. 3 Virginia, No. 9 San Diego, No. 11 Washington, No. 14 Stanford, No. 15 Maryland and No. 19 South Carolina. UCLA is ranked No. 24 in the pre-season

TWO BRUINS EARN PRE-SEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS -- Defenders Alex Yi and Nelson Akwari were selected to College's pre-season All-America list. Yi, a second-team selection, and Akwari, an honorable mention pick, each earned all-conference honors as freshmen and both started all 19 games for UCLA in 2000. The dynamic duo were also starters for the U.S. U-20 National Team at the 2001 World Youth Championships.

2001 SEASON OUTLOOK -- After an up-and-down 2000 season, UCLA returns a more experienced, hungry and committed group that is expected to once again contend for the NCAA Championship. The Bruins return with one of the most talented backfields in the nation, led by U-20 stars Alex Yi and Nelson Akwari, along with returning starters Scot Thompson and Leonard Griffin. Midfield is also another strong point, with youth national team members Ryan Futagaki, Adolfo Gregorio and Mike Enfield among the midfield leaders. The Bruins have a little less experience in the forward position but have talent, depth and variety with players like top returning goal scorer Cliff McKinley, Matt Taylor and Phillip Harr. Redshirt sophomore Zach Wells will be UCLA's third starting goalkeeper in as many years, having played behind now-MLS keepers Nick Rimando and DJ Countess. Wells played in four games last year without allowing a goal.

HEAD COACH TODD SALDANA -- Now in his third year as head coach, Todd Saldana has posted a 31-10 record and has extended UCLA's streak of 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. In his first season as Bruin head coach, Saldana led UCLA to the College Cup Semifinals, earning NSCAA Far West Coach of the Year honors in the process. Saldana previously coached the UCLA women's soccer team in 1998 and was the head men's coach at Loyola Marymount in 1997.

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