By J.R. Eskilson, TopDrawerSoccer.com
UC Santa Barbara lost six starters from last year's squad, but head coach Tim Vom Steeg is still smiling heading into his 14th season in charge of the Gauchos.
"I would say it has been our best preseason," Vom Steeg told TopDrawerSoccer.com last week. "Our talent level is so much higher this year."
The coach went onto explain that in previous season's he has felt confident with the top 11 to 13 on the roster, but believes this fall's team is competitive from the first to the last player.
"We are very, very talented," he continued. "No one wants to miss a training session in fear of losing their spot."
How did UCSB reload the roster so quickly?
"The transfer market is out of necessity," Vom Steeg added. "Big David (Opoku) and (Michael) Nonni went [to the professional leagues in Europe], which we didn't expect.
"Sam Garza was always on MLS' radar, but you can't promise a 16-year-old Garza's money with the anticipation of him leaving his junior year."
Garza transferred into UCSB, as well. The current San Jose Earthquake started his college career at Denver before heading to Harder Stadium in 2010. After two seasons, he decided to test his luck with MLS and signed a Generation adidas contract last winter. His early entrance into the league opened up a spot for a new transfer player.
"If we still had Garza, we would not have had room for Dion (Acoff)," Vom Steeg said.
The new speedy winger has not been reserved about stepping up and filling the void
"It is easy when you play with top talent," Acoff said about transitioning into UCSB's system. "With UCSB, it is more attacking. [Creighton head coach] Elmar [Bolowich] is more defending and keeping goals out. Here, it is about letting the forward do what they do best."
Junior Dom Sarle is entering his second season with the Gauchos. The former U.S. U17 Men's National team midfielder transferred into UCSB from St. John's in 2011 and fit in immediately with the pieces around him.
"I feel like we just have a lot of guys who go forward well," Sarle said about what makes it easy for new players to fit in. "It is a free flowing attack."
Sarle is confident in the team this fall.
"We have a bunch of new guys coming in who I know will score," he added. "I think we can go further than last year."
Vom Steeg also cited the playing style for attracting the interest of a number of transfers.
"They come into a setup where they know we attack," the coach said. "Probably the main reason that they transfer in is because they see the way we play."
The early buzz with all these new faces is that UCSB will be FAST in 2012, but the cohesion is always a question when you add so many players. The coaching staff is counting on the chips on their shoulders to help bound this team together.
"Yeah, these players step in because we need them to step in," Vom Steeg said. "They are also players who have something to prove."
The Gauchos are hoping that solidarity happens immediately because they start the season with five of their first six contests on the road.
The transfers will get their first taste of real UCSB action this Sunday with a game at LMU.
To view this article on TopDrawerSoccer.com, click here.
UCSB will officially open the 2012 season on Sunday, Aug. 26 at Loyola Marymount. The Gauchos will return home on Sept. 7 to host Valparaiso at 7:30 p.m. at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.
To ensure that you don't miss a minute of the 2012 campaign, purchase your season tickets now. The popular Family Plan includes five tickets for just $178. This year, the plan will also serve as a Flex Plan with either two season passes and three GKids memberships or five tickets – it's your call! GKids remains the best value in town for kids with access to every regular season game in every sport while wearing your GKids t-shirt. Call (805) 893-UCSB or click here to purchase your season tickets.