Tay’s Takedown: Despite men’s soccer’s record so far, coach Ryan Jorden shows promise
Before being hired in April 2019, coach Ryan Jorden served as head coach for University of the Pacific men’s soccer beginning in 2013. The Tigers reached the second round of the NCAA tournament in each of his last three years in Stockton, California. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)
By Jared Tay
October 3, 2019 12:27 am
As the saying goes, “There’s always next year.”
And it’s this phrase – speaking to a hopeful future for a continually faltering team – that applies to the current state of UCLA men’s soccer.
It’s been six months since coach Ryan Jorden took charge in Westwood. And if you looked at the Bruins’ win-loss record in his first month at the helm – 4-4-1 – it becomes clear that a post-Jorge Salcedo revolution will have to wait until at least Jorden’s second season.
But it’s not Jorden’s fault that his 2019 season is looking to be just another mediocre finish for the Bruins.
After the program’s historically poor season in 2017, Salcedo managed to bring in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, featuring then-freshman midfielder Frankie Amaya – the No. 1 club player in Southern California – and then-junior transfer forward Mohammed Kamara – who scored 48 goals in 22 games for Tyler Junior College.
The supposed talent didn’t translate into wins, however, with the Bruins posting a 10-9 record – including three-straight losses to close the season. And to make things worse, Amaya, Kamara and then-freshman midfielder Matt Hundley all departed to go to the pros.
Their departures were salt in the wound following an underwhelming 2018 campaign. After failing to reach the round of 16 for the fourth-straight season, it seemed like Salcedo’s squad was faltering fast.
Then, for better or for worse, Jorden came.
His critics say he may be in over his head. They say while Jorden was successful in turning relatively little talent at the University of the Pacific into an NCAA qualifier, he may have trouble doing such a thing at UCLA, facing Pac-12 competition.
And while only his record can truly prove his critics wrong in the end, one thing is for sure.
His team looks different.
Jorden’s emphasis on possession and use of one- or two-touch passing to create shots has given the Bruins an identity – think tiki-taka, Spanish type play. His style emphasizes intelligent passing through the midfield, taking advantage of the extra man in the Bruins’ own third.
His system of heavy midfield possession hasn’t looked perfect this season, however. Against Washington, it seemed like UCLA completed more backward passes than forward ones, eventually losing that game 5-0.
Oftentimes, a failed pass in the backfield has led to a goal conceded on the other end. And against Oregon State, UCLA was shut out even after possessing the ball for most of the game.
His system, evidently, does not have a spotless record this season.
But what is clear is that his squad seems – at least on the record – to buy into his system. Many of his players said they think possession soccer is the way the game ought to be played, rather than a style that involves hitting long balls over the top.
So even if Jorden isn’t getting consistent results now, he seems to have the support of his team.
The Bruins’ lineup is also filled with fresh talent that Jorden has brought in. New additions to the squad with junior midfielder Marcony Pimentel, sophomore midfielder Riley Ferch and freshman forward Jefferson Alade all have the potential to make serious impacts as they grow with the Bruins’ system.
So Jorden has trust at the moment.
But, coach Jorden – do not fall into the trap of complacency that led to the demise of Salcedo’s teams. And try not to take any bribes either.
If the Jorden revolution doesn’t arrive in the coming years, UCLA Athletics will be quick to turn to someone else who is eager to take the reins.
Because there’s only so many times that Bruin fans can sit back and say, “There’s always next year.”