Feb. 16, 2000
UCLA men's soccer head coach Todd Salda?a signed 10 top players during the national letter of intent signing period, including four members of the historic U.S. Under-17 National Team.
The Bruins signed U.S. Under-17 National Team members Delvin Countess (goalkeeper/Bella Vista HS/Sacramento, CA), Nelson Akwari (defender/Strake Jesuits College Prep/Houston, TX), Alexander Yi (defender/Bolletieri SA/Easton, MD) and Adolfo Gregorio (midfielder/Hilmar HS/Hilmar, CA). Also signing with the Bruins were Anthony Lawson (defender/Quartz Hill HS/Palmdale, CA), Leonard Griffin (defender/Littlerock HS/Littlerock, CA), John Carson (forward/East Bakersfield HS/Bakersfield, CA), Matt Taylor (forward/Irvine HS/Irvine, CA), Ty Maurin (midfielder/Don Lugo HS/Chino, CA) and Cliff McKinley (forward/Fountain Valley HS/Fountain Valley, CA).
Current U.S. U-20 National Team members Countess, Akwari, Yi and Gregorio were a part of the U.S. U-17 National Team that finished fourth at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship, the highest finish ever for an American team. That team also held the longest unbeaten streak in the history of U.S. Soccer's Men's National Team program - 25 games that spanned 15 months.
Countess, a 1999 Parade All-American, posted three shutouts and a 0.60 GAA at the '99 FC Qualifying Tournament. In 1998, he started 25 matches for the U-17s, posting 10 shutouts and a 1.16 GAA. Akwari, the co-captain of the U-17 squad and a Parade All-American, has been with the National Team program since 1997 and was a bronze medalist with the U-23 National Team at the 1999 Pan American Games. He was named the 1999 NSCAA Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Yi, a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American, was the USA's starting sweeper at the U-17 World Championships. Gregorio, another two-time NSCAA Youth All-America selection, tallied two assists in the USA's historic 4-3 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1999.
In addition to the four from the U-17 team, Griffin is a member of the U.S. U-18 National Team and part of the U.S. U-20 National Team pool, and Lawson was a member of the U-17 pool. Both are considered the top players in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Bruins also signed two Orange County standouts in Taylor, considered the top all-around player in the county, and McKinley, Orange County's top scorer and Fountain Valley's all-time scoring leader. They also picked up Bakersfield County's No. 1 player in Carson and a gifted left-footed midfielder in Maurin.
Said Salda?a about next year's freshman class, "In terms of experience and accomplishments, this has to be one of the top recruiting classes in UCLA history. With the loss of eight seniors and two Project-40 signees, we felt we had a big void, and we feel confident that we've filled that. We will be a young but very talented team next year."