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Soccer continues season with new recruits despite losing last year’s top players

Freshman midfielder Tarun Karumanchi readies to strike the ball. Karumanchi has started in all four of the Bruins’ games, logging the second-most minutes on the roster thus far. (Antonio Martinez/Daily Bruin staff)

By Lexi Grimes

Sept. 8, 2022 5:08 p.m.

The Bruins gained a lot of new talent in the past few months, and they haven’t hesitated in putting them to work.

No. 15 UCLA men’s soccer (3-1) gained nine new players this offseason. In just the first four games of the season, eight of the nine combined freshman recruits and transfers logged playing time. Freshman midfielder Tarun Karumanchi and junior forward Andre Ochoa have started in all four games, and graduate defender Nicolas Blassou has started in three.

Coach Ryan Jorden said he has been giving the new players ample time to prove themselves as he solidifies the starters for the remainder of the season.

“We know we have a big group of guys that can play,” Jorden said. “Every time that somebody comes on they get an opportunity to make a case for themselves.”

The new players are coming at an opportune time, as the Bruins are missing some of their top performers from last year.

Of the 11 players with the most minutes in the 2021 season, three are no longer on the team and one – redshirt sophomore midfielder Tucker Lepley – has not yet played for the Bruins due to injury. Three of the 11 players with the most minutes thus far into the 2022 season are new additions, with Karumanchi recording the second-most minutes among all UCLA players.

The fresh faces are turning on-field action into concrete contributions – efforts that are showing up on the stat sheets. Karumanchi, Ochoa, and freshman midfielder Cam Wilkerson have all recorded assists this season and Ochoa is one of only six Bruins who have scored a goal so far.

Junior defender Pablo Greenlee said the reason why the new players were able to integrate so easily is because of extensive practice.

“We brought in most of our freshmen last spring so we’ve had a long time to mesh together,” Greenlee said. “We only had two new guys come in and they fit really well into the system.”

The chemistry that UCLA has been displaying between new and returning players is not limited to on the field. The Bruins have bonded as teammates and as friends in the months that they have been together.

Ochoa – who transferred from San Diego State – said the camaraderie has made the transition easier.

“I’m a new player and I feel right at home with all the new guys,” Ochoa said. “They are very welcoming and everyone gets along on and off the field.”

The Bruins continue their season Saturday at 7 p.m. with their first away game of the season against Portland.

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Lexi Grimes | Sports reporter
Grimes is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball, men's soccer and women's volleyball beats.
Grimes is currently a Sports reporter on the men's soccer beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball, men's soccer and women's volleyball beats.
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