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‘We’re lucky to have a player like him’: Andre Ochoa uplifts UCLA men’s soccer

Senior forward Andre Ochoa watches the ball as he defends. Ochoa is in his second season with UCLA men’s soccer after transferring from San Diego State. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Matthew Royer

Oct. 19, 2023 5:33 p.m.

Sean Karani had an accusation to make about his locker mate.

“He sucks at FIFA,” the graduate student midfielder said. “He’s just not good, but he’ll tell you otherwise.”

Luckily for fellow transfer Andre Ochoa, Karani feels differently about the former’s play on the pitch.

Ochoa – in his second year with UCLA men’s soccer after transferring from San Diego State – has started all 11 games for the Bruins this campaign. The senior forward has received praise from his coaches and teammates for his versatility and selflessness on the field.

“He’s massive for us,” Karani said. “He’s so good in midfield, on the ball, controlling the ball. Every time he gets the ball, I trust him. He’s not going to lose it.”

Coach Ryan Jorden said Ochoa’s ability to play wherever he is needed has helped the team late in matches when it needs a boost in the final third.

“He can play in different places,” Jorden said. “He can overload zones in the field. He can get into the box and score goals. He can create opportunities. … It’s what makes him such a good soccer player.”

Jorden added that last year, Ochoa took a little over half the season to get accustomed to the Bruins’ style of play, but once he figured it out, he was a pivotal contributor to the late-season run.

And as last October turned to November, figure it out he did.

Ochoa played hero in the final stretch, recording the game-winner against his former school and scoring the equalizer in the NCAA tournament against then-No. 6 Clemson to help secure an upset victory.

This season, he started right where he left off. Ochoa has played more than 70 minutes in all but two matches, collecting seven points and opening his goal-scoring account against Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine at the end of September.

(Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Ochoa kicks the ball as he falls slightly. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Junior defender Pietro Grassi said Ochoa is essential as both a teammate and an athlete, adding that Ochoa has been a critical motivator in team workouts and morale.

Grassi said Ochoa is always there for the team wherever they need him on the pitch.

“He can play the nine, he can play the false nine, he can play it on the wing and he can play the midfield,” Grassi said. “We’re lucky to have a player like him, honestly. He is such a utility player, and I mean that in the best possible way.”

On the other hand, Ochoa chalks up his play to just doing what the team needs of him at any time.

“Using your brain is the most important aspect, and just trying to help the team win, that’s my main goal,” Ochoa said. “If that’s playing right back, the nine or wide, it doesn’t really matter to me. I just use my style and try to help the team in any way I can.”

With this weekend marking the halfway point through conference play – starting Friday against SDSU – Ochoa said he’s ready for the competition that comes in the latter half of the season. He added that securing the results needed is the focus of the team’s collective mindset.

And while the games ahead of him are most on his mind, Ochoa said he did have to make one thing clear – his ability to mash buttons.

“That’s a lie. Sean is not good at FIFA,” Ochoa said. “I slam him all the time.”

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Matthew Royer | National news and higher education editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and is Copy staff. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and is Copy staff. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
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