Photo Courtesy UCSB Athletics
The University of California Santa Barbara has a storied soccer legacy, which includes a National Championship in 2006, 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances dating back to 2002 and 22 players selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
In the January draft, the Gauchos continued that legacy as star midfielder Luis Silva and forward Sam Garza were both selected in the first round and defenders Tim Pontius and James Kiffe were selected in the supplemental round.
Senior Luis Silva was selected fourth by Toronto FC, becoming the Gaucho’s highest selected player in history and surpassed Ciaran O’Brien, who was fifth chosen, by the Colorado Rapids in 2008. Silva will depart UCSB with many accolades including Big West Midfielder of the Year for 2011, three First Team All Big West honors and 2011 NSCAA All-America First Team. He tallied 88 caps in four years as a Gaucho netting 28 goals, including a career high of 17 this past season.
“I wasn’t expecting to go this high, but I’m really excited,” said Silva.
In joining Toronto FC, Silva will be reunited with former Gauchos Erik Avila, and pending a new contract, Andy Iro, both of whom have their jerseys hanging in the popular Isla Vista eatery, Dogtown.
Silva is “a very strong technical and tactical player,” said Toronto FC media and Head Coach Aron Winter.
Only moments after Silva received his celebratory scarf, junior forward Sam Garza was called to the podium, selected sixth by the San Jose Earthquakes.
Garza’s arrival in San Jose comes after a well-traveled but very successful collegiate career, which began at the University of Denver. After joining the Gauchos in 2010, following an injury-plagued 2009 season, Garza became the Big West Co-Offensive Player of the Year with nine goals and six assists, as well as First Team All Big West honors in 2010 and 2011.
This year Garza provided a speedy threat on the wings for the Gauchos and made many goals including a screamer just outside the box from the right wing to seal a home victory versus Cal Poly on Nov. 4.
Garza’s speed is what caught the eye of Quakes Coach Frank Yallop.
“We targeted Sam before we started the draft,” Yallop said to Geoff Lepper from http://mlssoccer.com.
The Quakes have struggled to find an offensive threat over the past few seasons, which will allow Garza a chance to establish himself as a perennial forward in MLS. San Jose is also the club where United States World Cup hero Landon Donovan got his start.
“Hopefully I can crack the starting 11 before the season starts and if not then just keep working, but obviously I’ve set my goals very high,” said Garza.
Two other Gauchos, Tim Pontius and James Kiffe, were also selected in the MLS Supplemental round. Pontius, who notched 62 caps in his Gaucho career, and netted three goals in the 2011 season from the back line, will join the Seattle Sounders next season. Kiffe notched 45 caps with the Gauchos after transferring from Santa Barbara City College and will accompany Garza to San Jose.