To some, the six new additions on the Cal State Fullerton men’s soccer team may be deemed the No. 25 recruiting class in the nation according to Top Drawer Soccer, but to CSUF, they’re familiar faces.
“We brought in a group that is familiar with how we play and familiar with each other and they complement each other, but they have brought in an edge,” said Titans head coach George Kuntz.
Freshmen Zico Bailey, Carlos “Charly” Anguiano and Jose Delgado come from the LA Galaxy Academy, where the professional experience helped ease along their transition to a Division 1 school.
“Training with the LA Galaxy, it’s a competitive environment. We work on a lot of touches tactically and right here, it’s basically the same thing, just a higher level,” Anguiano said.
Anguiano is the No. 24 recruit in the nation for his class according to Top Drawer Soccer. He says the ranking is fuel for the upcoming season and an expectation to hold himself to.
Bailey has appeared in five games for the LA Galaxy II in the United Soccer League, which adds to his list of experience playing against stronger athletes and being a part of different scenarios.
“I bring a lot of experience to the team in tough moments. It’s not like we’ve never been there before,” Bailey said.
However, all three of the academy athletes are not new to the Titans. Teammates Alex Juarez and Michael Lopez were also trained by LA Galaxy, making them familiar with one another for years.
Joining the academy players in this freshmen class is Edward Salazar. He played for the Fullerton Rangers club and helped lead Cathedral High School to a CIF Southern Section and regional title.
Salazar finds that playing at the college level is difficult, but it isn’t a challenge he is willing to back down from.
“The speed of play is much faster … everyone has a much higher IQ here and I just got to keep up,” Salazar said. “It’s different now, better competition.”
CSUF also welcomes two transfers from Cal State Dominguez Hills. Both Israel Gonzalez and Carlos Escobedo made the decision to switch from the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) to the Big West when the Toros found themselves without a head coach following the 2017 season.
Gonzalez felt that Fullerton presented more challenges for him, which contributed to his decision to transfer.
“At Dominguez there wasn’t a lot of center mids, so my position was pretty much there. Here, there are eight center mids that can easily start so it’s a big challenge for me to get a starting spot,” Gonzalez said.
Both were top players at Dominguez Hills. Escobedo made the 2017 First Team All-CCAA and First Team All-West Region. Gonzalez was named the team captain and played over 1,300 minutes in the 2017 season.
Yet, becoming a Titan seemed fitting to the duo as they have played with a majority of the players returning to the team.
The idea of familiarity has made it easy for all the new additions to easily fill the empty roster spots and has allowed the team to adapt to each other quickly, giving them an edge against their competition right before the season begins.
“They’re good. There’s not a big difference between number one and number two in those positions … but will they step up? Only time will tell,” Kuntz said.