Jorge Salcedo: A Bruin for Life

Sept. 30, 2011

By Bill Bennett

"I bring a lot of pressure on myself to have a successful team, to have a lot of players go on to the next level, and to have players recognized as the top players in the country. Everyone knows that UCLA's soccer program should be an elite program. That's a given, and that is a daily pressure, a weekly pressure and a seasonal pressure."
      - Jorge Salcedo, Daily Bruin, Oct. 28, 2004

On Sept. 27, UCLA men's soccer head coach Jorge Salcedo celebrated his 39th birthday. And for almost all those years, `Bruin Blue' has run through the veins of him and his family.

As a youngster, one of Salcedo's favorite outfits was a UCLA sweat suit. In 1985 at the age of 13, he was a ball boy for the Bruin men's soccer team that won the school's first NCAA Championship in the sport under the direction of head coach Sigi Schmid.

"It was an exciting time of my life, I was around older players, guys who were in college, great soccer players, great guys," Salcedo said. "I kind of fell into the job. I'd come to a lot of practices and every single game. At one of the practices, a couple of guys who usually help out and shag balls weren't around. So I started to do it myself and then became someone who would even come the day before games to help out, pick up balls and do whatever the guys needed. Most importantly, I wanted to be around them and be around the practice field.

"The title `ball boy' was probably a little more sophisticated title than what I actually was," he continued. "I was a fan who admired the group and got to be around the guys during training and at games. I would do whatever I needed to do just to be around."

Salcedo's family was instrumental in his Blue and Gold ways. His father Hugo was a UCLA assistant men's soccer coach (1978-79), a member of the 1972 U. S. Olympic men's soccer team and will serve as a FIFA Chairman for the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Salcedo's uncle Hector was a three-year (1971-73) UCLA soccer letterman, and another uncle, Juan, attended UCLA graduate school. Salcedo's brother, Eddie, was a UCLA team member in 1995.

Hugo and Jorge Salcedo

"The game of soccer, UCLA, the education, his family, that's what it's all about," said Jorge's father, Hugo. "Jorge has had a love of the sport since he was two or three years old. When I coached at UCLA, he was with me all the time and enjoyed being with the players. UCLA is the school he always wanted to attend. He was very persistent; he always had UCLA on the mind. It is a great environment and a great family. UCLA brings out the best in young people, and it brings out the best in Jorge. It's a great, great situation for the Salcedo family."

Following his outstanding prep career at Cerritos HS, Salcedo became a Bruin in 1990. For the last 21 years, he has filled every role imaginable in the UCLA men's soccer program - player, assistant coach, acting head coach and head coach since 2004.

"I was fond of UCLA for a variety of reasons," Salcedo said. "When I was growing up I was very fortunate to play on the youth national team and to play in different places around the world, to travel around the U.S. as a young kid. I understood there were other schools besides UCLA, other universities that I was recruited by and visited. But education was such an important aspect of the decision. My family really values education. UCLA had everything I was looking for - obviously a great soccer program, a great institution and a really, all-around incredible experience for everyone that goes to college at UCLA."

In his freshman season, Salcedo was one of just three players who started every match. The Bruins, under Schmid, won the school's second NCAA Men's Soccer Championship, beating Rutgers on penalty kicks. It was Salcedo's penalty kick that clinched the national title for the Bruins.

"I remember so much about the game and wanting to win a championship for a school that I was so proud to represent, where my best friends participated and played on the same team with me," he said. "The penalty kick was an indelible memory, and an indelible moment in my life I will never forget. I was never great at penalty kicks, although I was always brave and wanted to take them. I thought it was ironic that here I was - a freshman playing in the national championship, taking the last penalty kick for our team. I had not taken a penalty kick in the semifinals vs. North Carolina State, and here I was taking the deciding penalty kick and somehow, some way I was going to find a way to score for us to win."

Salcedo was a four-year Bruin starter (1990-93) playing in 74 games. He helped lead the Bruins to four Top Five national rankings, an overall mark of 68-11-7 and four NCAA Tournament appearances. Overcoming a serious right foot injury that required surgery midway through his collegiate career, Salcedo earned NSCAA All-America and All-MPSF honors as a senior in 1993. He was also a standout for the U.S. National Team, earning three caps with the full team and captaining the U-17 squad and the U-20 team at the 1990 CONCACAF tournaments.

After his collegiate playing career ended, Salcedo lived a bit of a nomadic soccer lifestyle, traveling and playing in countries like Japan, Egypt and Mexico in the pre-Major League Soccer (MLS) days.

"It was an incredible experience, and UCLA gave me that opportunity because of the success that I had here individually as a player. That gave me the confidence and the belief to be able to go to different countries in the world and try to play soccer and make that a professional career."

Once the MLS began play in 1996, Salcedo became one of its top players. During his first season with the Los Angeles Galaxy, the team competed in the MLS Cup final. He also served as co-captain for the Chicago Fire in 1998.

Then, at the end of the 2001 MLS campaign, Salcedo had the opportunity to return to his alma mater as an assistant under head coach Todd Saldana.

"I'm always very thankful that Sigi Schmid felt very strongly about me becoming an assistant coach here at UCLA," Salcedo said. "He talked to Todd Saldana about how I would be a good fit for him and a good fit for the program. I will always be appreciative to Todd for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to grow as a coach. There couldn't have been a better place for me to begin my coaching career than at UCLA - a place I had been around for so many years, a place I admired and loved. It was one of the best moments for me professionally to begin my coaching career at UCLA."

Salcedo was UCLA's assistant coach from 2001-03 under two Bruin head coaches, Saldana (2001) and the late Tom Fitzgerald (2002-03). In those three seasons, UCLA won the 2002 NCAA Championship, the sport's fourth national crown, and two Pac-10 team titles. In Fitzgerald's two seasons the Bruins were 38-5-4. Following the 2003 season, Fitzgerald returned to the University of Tampa, where he had once been the head coach, and Salcedo was named the UCLA men's soccer head coach on Feb. 6, 2004.

Salcedo credits the three UCLA coaches that he was associated with both as a Bruin player and assistant coach -Schmid, Saladana and Fitzgerald, whom Salcedo also played for with the Columbus Crew - for teaching and preparing him for the position.

"Each of them is very different when you look at their personalities," said Salcedo. "But they are all very similar in that they were all very successful and very committed to the game. Sigi was here for 19 years as the head coach and did an incredible job at UCLA and with Major League Soccer. What I learned from Sigi was the passion and the enthusiasm you need to have as a player and coach. He has this burning desire in his inner core to succeed and to be successful and to win.

"Todd was someone who knew how to push players and make players play hard for him. Every successful coach in any sport would say that one of the most important things is to get your players to play as hard as they can game in and game out. Todd taught me the value of that.

"Tom was unique to Todd and Sigi in that his approach was a little bit more carefree in the actual tactical approach. But he held his players accountable to being the best that they could be, and that made the team collectively very good. I thought his approach was much different from anything I've ever been around. The two years he was here he had one of the best records and winning percentage as a coach that we may ever see again here at UCLA in men's soccer or any sport. His first year he won a national championship, and in his second and last year he lost only two games."

Salcedo, who is now in his eighth season as the Bruin head coach, ranks behind only Schmid as the longest tenured men's soccer coach in UCLA's NCAA history. Under his guidance, the Bruins, who open Pac-12 play on Sept. 30 vs. Cal, have won four conference championships and played in seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments, keeping alive UCLA's streak of 28 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2006, the Bruins played in the NCAA Championship game and have advanced to the quarterfinals the last two years. In his first season as head coach (2004), Salcedo was the Pac-10 co-Coach of the Year, and in 2008 he earned the honor outright. Since 2004, the Bruins have seen 23 players drafted by the MLS.

"UCLA has given me all the good things that have come in my life, from being here at UCLA, to my wife, to my kids, to my education, to friends that will be lifelong friends," Salcedo said. "The experiences that I have had here, I could go on and on about how wonderful they have been and how fortunate I have been as a young man to experience what I have experienced.

"There have been a lot of highs, there have been some lows. The thing that I am most proud of is that every single year we've put a product on the field that I think every soccer fan, especially UCLA and Bruin soccer alumni, would be proud of. Soccer is a sport that takes time to get teams to be their best. I think over the past seven seasons, and hopefully again this season at some point, we have been a squad that is a very good playing team that knows how to win games and knows how to do things that are going to be extremely positive as a team on the soccer field. Each and every year I've been very proud of what we've put on the field at some point during the season."

When reflecting on his son's playing and coaching soccer career, Hugo Salcedo is a proud father.

"He has had such a great life," he said. "A boy, like Jorge, starting playing soccer when he was five years old, went on to the youth level, the national team, UCLA, to the MLS and now is the UCLA head coach. He's had such a life, you couldn't write it any better.

"You always wish and hope for the best for your children," Hugo continued. "Jorge is a head coach at one of the top universities in the country. His parents, his relatives, his friends, we are so proud. He has had a lifetime of great moments. It's such a great experience to be there for him every season, watching him give back to his University and to young people. He has given us so much, we have so much togetherness."

Salcedo and his wife Rebecca have been married for seven years, and they have three children - Matteo (5), Malea (3) and Marco (1). Will their three children all be `Bruins for Life,' too?

"Our children love being around the program and around the team," he said. "They have little traditions. Every Halloween they dress up in their costumes, come to practice and pass out candy to all the guys. We just got a dog a few years ago and asked Matteo what he wanted to name the dog, and of course he named the dog Bruin.

"From top to bottom in our family, all the way down to our dog, we're Bruins through and through. Marco's only one year-old, so he's not quite sure yet what's going on at UCLA. But Matteo and Malea, they love the school, they love being here. If you ask Matteo what college he's going to attend, he won't hesitate. He'll tell you UCLA, and he'll shout it out loud."

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