College coaches declared 1997 a banner year in Region IV recruiting as the depth and strength of the class had many calling it the best in many years.
"I think you'll see three or four in this group represent the U.S. in World Cup qualifying at some point," said UCLA coach Sigi Schmid, who once again came away with the lion's share of the haul. "It's that strong a group. Six or seven have a shot at the U-20 [national] team."
Schmid found replacements for departed All-American defender Tahj Jakins, the first pick in the MLS collegiate draft and now a starter with MLS's Colorado Rapids, and goalkeeper Kevin Hartmann.
"I'm very pleased," Schmid said. "The players we got fill areas of need. We needed a big defender to replace Tahj. [Carlos] Bocanegra gives us someone with size and speed in the back. And Nick Rimando is a quality keeper."
Both Bocanegra and Rimando are key players on defense for the U.S. under-18 national team coached by Santa Clara University's Mitch Murray.
"Rimando is different from the keepers we've had in the past in that he's not as big," said Schmid. "But he plays big... he's strong and has a good vertical leap.
"He also has an infectious personality.... He makes the players in front of him believe in him because he's confident and relaxed."
The Bruins also get an able left sided midfielder in Shaun Tsakiris, another starter for Murray, who called him his team's "best playmaker."
Although UCLA had the most success filling out its team, this year there was enough talent to go around -- Washington, Portland and San Jose State all welcome top notch players.
Gary St. Clair of San Jose State rates his recruit, striker Francisco Gomez, the best of the Region IV bunch.
"Gomez is a genius with the ball," gushed St. Clair. "He earns defenders' respect.... He just freezes them and then goes by. And his finishing is lethal. I rate him as the best player, period. It's a very good class but [in Gomez] you have a player who is just exceptional."
Murray also bestows praise on Gomez, who's been in and out of his lineup due to injury and fitness problems: "He's a savvy, mature player, who sees passes that most players don't see."
Portland strengthens its defense with U.S. U-18 back line anchor Steve Cherundolo and gets midfield savvy from Miguel Luna.
"Luna is a real subtle player and I mean that in a good sense," St. Clair said. "He glides and floats around out there. He beats you and you don't know you've been beat.... potentially he can become a pro player."
Washington coach Dean Wurzberger brings in a versatile player in Kai Carroll, who he can use either wide in midfield or in defense.
Not everyone was lucky this year, however, Fresno State coach John Bluem saw a couple of prime prospects slip through the net. After verbal commitments to attend Fresno State midfielders Matt Evans and Josh McLeish went the NAIA route -- Evans to Azusa Pacific and McLeish to Southern California College, where his father, David, coaches.
"It was unlucky that Evans and McLeish didn't show up," Bluem said. "We had them committed but Evans had trouble with his grades and McLeish had a change of heart, he wanted to be closer to home. We lost out on those two."
by Soccer America Associate Editor Poul Swain
Boys region IV Super-11 recruits
||Redwood City, Calif.
||Intelligent and consistent
||Alta Loma, Calif.
||Solid defender who can join attack
||Versatile player, sprays ball around
||San Diego, Calif.
||Skillful sweeper, great distributor
||Sierra Madre, Calif.
||Quick, attacking player
||San Jose State
||Mature, has savvy on the ball
||Big, strong in air
||San Diego, Calif.
||Subtle, creative playmaker
||San Clemente, Calif.
||So. Cal. College
||Versatile, reads game well
||Dynamic, deadly left foot
||Quick off line, comfortable with feet