This post was updated Aug. 19 at 7:59 a.m.
First-year coach Ryan Jorden will see the Bruins in full-match play for the first time Tuesday.
UCLA men’s soccer will kick off its 2019 season with two exhibition matches as the team takes on Westmont at home Tuesday and then travels to Nebraska to face off against Omaha on Saturday.
“The exhibitions against Westmont and Omaha will give us a good opportunity to be able to take a look at our team and for us to get an update on what our current progress and status is,” Jorden said. “We’ll start getting a feel for relationships among different players.”
Jorden, the former coach of the Pacific’s men’s soccer squad, was hired in April following the resignation of former UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo after he was charged as part of the Varsity Blues scandal.
In the 2018 season, the Bruins posted a 10-9 record overall and 5-5 record against Pac-12 opponents. UCLA’s season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament, when the Bruins fell to Portland by a score of 1-0.
“For me, it’s my last season at UCLA, but it feels like I’m a freshman again because we are under new leadership,” said redshirt senior defender Matthew Powell. “It’s a completely new environment, and I’m much more optimistic about how this group can perform.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Justin Garces also said he is excited for the new season, after the Florida native spent his summer training with his home club Atlanta United FC.
“I trained with them for the majority of the summer, just trying to get myself healthy and fit,” Garces said. “I’m looking forward to the new preseason. We’re bringing in the new guys and we’re all excited to see how things play out with them.”
The Bruins have five freshmen on their roster. Among them is forward Jefferson Alade, who joined the Vancouver Whitecaps FC residency program in 2016. Since then, Alade went on to net 36 goals in 83 games with the club and was rated a three-star recruit by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
“We really like our guys a lot,” Jorden said. “We are UCLA and to bring in really high-level student athletes is not that hard. We just need to make sure we are bringing in the right people.”
Both of the Bruins’ leading scorers will not be returning for the 2019 season after deciding to turn pro after their 2018 campaigns. Then-freshman forward Matt Hundley – who is currently on loan from the Colorado Rapids at USL Championship club Colorado Springs – and then-junior Mohammed Kamara – who signed for Kazma SC in the Kuwait Premier League – each tallied five goals on the season.
Among the returning starters is junior forward Milan Iloski. After missing the first part of the 2018 season, Iloski made 11 starts in 13 appearances, recording three goals – good for third-leading scorer for the Bruins.
Both Powell and Garces said they are hopeful to bring hardware home to Westwood under Jorden’s leadership.
“I’ve been here four years and we haven’t won anything,” Powell said. “We’ve had a lot of quality, and on paper, we should have won something. Collectively, I want to win something. And then, the team’s success will help me individually (after I graduate from UCLA), so I want to build on that, ”
Garces said his sights are set on the Pac-12 championship, which the Bruins have not won since 2012.
“It’s been a while since UCLA has won the conference, so it should be our focus for the first part of the season. It’s expected of us to win that every season, so we need to come in with that mindset.”