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Everything You Need to Know About the 2023 UCF Men’s Soccer Team

For the first time since 1991, the Knights take the pitch as a member of the Sun Belt Conference

Noah Goldberg

For the first time since 2003, not all of UCF’s athletics programs will be under the same conference banner, as the UCF Knights’ Men’s Soccer team will begin its new era in the Sun Belt in 2023.

Since the Big 12 and SEC do not sponsor Men’s Soccer, UCF joins a trio of other Power Five men’s soccer programs that have found a home in the SBC.

In addition to joining a new conference, the Knights will also try to bounce back after a relatively rough 2022.

It all begins on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. with the team’s season opener on the road against Clemson. The match will be streamed live on ACC Network Extra.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Last Season

6-7 (3-6 AAC), 8th place in The American, Missed AAC Tournament

Injuries to key players such as Zane Bubb and Gino Vivi did not help matters, but despite key conference wins against FIU and Charlotte, the Knights came one spot short of qualifying for the American Athletic Conference Tournament. It was the first time the Knights failed to make it to a conference tournament since 2009 and it was the program’s first losing season since 2016.

For more on last season, check out our KnightCap on it here.

This Season

Picked 4th in the Sun Belt Coaches Poll

The Knights received one first-place vote in the Sun Belt Coaches Poll, though they were ultimately predicted to finish the season 4th in the conference. Their point values put them firmly ahead of fifth-place South Carolina, but also firmly behind third-place West Virginia.

Kentucky and Marshall, who both made last season’s NCAA Tournament, were picked to finish first and second respectively. They should both be national title contenders as well, with Kentucky at #3 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches’ Poll, and Marshall at #11.

Who’s in Charge

Scott Calabrese — 7th season at UCF

Scott Calabrese celebrating the 2018 AAC Regular Season Championship
Photo: Derek Warden

Scott Calabrese aims to bounce back from the first losing season of his UCF tenure in 2022.

However, one thing he was able to achieve last season was his 60th win as the Knights’ head coach, surpassing his predecessor, Bryan Cunningham, for the third-most career coaching wins in program history. The number of wins Cunningham collected in ten seasons on the job, Calabrese needed just shy of six.

Scott Calabrese’s UCF Career

Year Overall Conference AAC Reg. Season AAC Tournament NCAA Tournament
Year Overall Conference AAC Reg. Season AAC Tournament NCAA Tournament
2017 8-6-2 4-2-1 2nd Lost AAC Final in OT (SMU) -
2018 13-3-3 5-1-1 1st Lost AAC Final in PKs (SMU) Bye/Lost 2nd Round in OT (Lipscomb)
2019 15-3-2 6-0-1 1st Lost AAC Final (SMU) Bye/Lost 3rd Round in OT (at SMU)
2020* 9-4-1 7-3 1st Won AAC Tournament Bye/Lost Sweet 16 (Pitt)
2021 9-8 6-4 2nd Lost AAC Final (Tulsa) -
2022 6-7 3-6 8th - -
Total 60-31-8 31-16-3 3 Titles 1 Title 3 Appearances

Watch or listen to our season preview with Coach Calabrese below:

What to Watch for

New Setup Men

Of the 21 total assists the Knights had last season, 15 of them were from players who will not return for 2023.

Gini Vivi and Mauricio Villalobos alone accounted for 10 assists together in 2022. So, someone new is going to need to step into the role of setting up the shot for Lucca Dourado.

Kicking it in the Fun Belt

Unlike the rest of UCF’s athletic programs, the Men’s Soccer team will not be competing in the Big 12, but in the Sun Belt. The Knights did compete in the Sun Belt for one season back in 1991, but none of the conference’s members from that season continue to play Men’s Soccer in the conference today.

The conference is highlighted by 2020 National Champion Marshall, fellow Big 12 member West Virginia, and the SEC’s Kentucky and South Carolina.

Who to Watch

A pair of Knights that were selected to the All-AAC First Team last season appear on 2023’s Preseason All-Sun Belt team.

#9 Lucca Dourado - Forward

Noah Goldberg

Dourado is coming off a second consecutive season getting named to the All-AAC First Team and the All-East Region Second Team. He scored 11 of the Knights’ 23 total goals on the season.

He also raised his position on the program’s all-time goals list, getting himself into a tie for eighth with Nik Robson at 28. If Dourado scores a similar number of goals this season, he could be in contention to get into the top five.

He was named a Player to Watch by United Soccer Coaches.

#6 Anderson Rosa - Defender

Noah Goldberg

A fixture on the backline since his freshman season, Anderson Rosa returns after a 2022 season in which he was named to the All-AAC First Team and the All-East Region Third Team.

#31 Juanvi Munoz - Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper from Spain was thrown into the deep end in 2022, receiving the starting job as a true freshman. He saved 71.6% of the shots kicked his way, totaling 48 saves on the season, and had a 1.46 goals-against average. It was enough to get him onto the AAC’s All-Rookie Team.

Now, he has a full year of game experience under his belt and an offseason’s worth of development.

Who We’ll Miss

#7 Gino Vivi - Forward

The Costa Rica native set up shots with the best of them during his time at UCF. Despite injury hindering his 2022 season, he still finished in a tie for the fifth-most career assists in program history (23) and for the tenth-most points in program history (61).

This helped Vivi get selected by the L.A. Galaxy with the 23rd overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Since then, he has played for the Galaxy’s MLS NEXT Pro team and made three appearances with the main club, including one start.

#10 Mauricio Villalobos - Midfielder

Noah Goldberg

Right alongside Vivi setting up shots was Mauricio Villalobos, who also served as a team captain for his last three seasons. His 18 career assists are tied for the eighth-most in program history. So, not only will the team need to find a new player to set up goals, but they are also in need of someone to step up and take over the leadership role.

Since his days in Orlando, Villalobos has been playing professionally for Austrian club SK Bischofshofen.

Who’s New That’s Good

#10 Clarence Awoudor - Forward

The Oregon State transfer had a standout freshman campaign in 2022, getting two goals and two assists en route to an All-Pac-12 First-Team selection.

Who’s On the Roster

  • 8 Seniors and 5th-years
  • 14 returners
  • 14 freshmen
  • 7 Floridians — 3 from Central Florida
  • 20 International players (France, Germany, Senegal, Brazil, Israel, Portugal, Finland, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Ghana, Colombia and Spain)

2023 UCF Men’s Soccer Roster

No. Name Pos Year Hometown 2022 School 2022 Stats
No. Name Pos Year Hometown 2022 School 2022 Stats
1 Luciano Natoli GK R-Fr Miami Beach, FL Cypress Bay HS Redshirted
2 Zane Bubb D 5th Jacksonville, FL UCF Started 4 games.
3 Raphaël Crivello D 5th Bordeaux, France UCF Played in 9 games (Started 8).
4 Jonas Fritschi M/D 5th Donaueschingen, Germany N/A Made 28 appearences with TSG Balingen in 2022-23 season, including 4 in the Württemberg Cup, 1 goal.
5 Ousmane Ba M Jr Pout, Senegal UCF Played in 3 games.
6 Anderson Rosa D Sr Salvador, Brazil UCF Started 13 games, All-AAC First Team, 1 goal and 1 assist
7 Mouhamed Pouye F Fr Dakar, Senegal Montverde Academy N/A
8 Beto Ydrach M R-Sr Orlando, FL UCF Played in 9 games (Started 8).
9 Lucca Dourado F Sr Sao Paulo, Brazil UCF Played in 13 games (Started 11), All-AAC First-Team, 11 goals
10 Clarence Awoudor F So Saint-Lo, France Oregon State Played in 13 games (Started 12), All-Pac-12 First-Team, 2 goals, 2 assists.
11 Malang Mandiang F Fr Dakar, Senegal Montverde Academy N/A
12 Robbie Soronellas M 5th Lutz, FL UCF Played in 10 games (Started 5), 1 goal.
13 Ron Ben Dakon D Fr Ganei Tikva, Israel Meitar HS N/A
14 Fabio Guerreiro F/M Fr Faro, Portugal Escola Secundaria Jose Falcao N/A
15 Saku Heiskanen M Fr Espoo, Finland Makelanrinteen Iukio N/A
16 Timothy Arias D So Alajuela, Costa Rica UCF Played in 9 games (Started 3).
17 Oscar Hough M So Wellington, New Zealand UCF Played in 11 games (Started 6), 1 assist.
18 Yanis Belatrache M Fr Herblay sur Seine, France Lycee Louis de Cormontaigne N/A
20 Brandon Calderon D R-Fr Alajuela, Costa Rica Santa Teresa Redshirted
21 Emmanuel Bam F So Accra, Ghana UCF Played in 11 games (Started 5), 2 assists
22 Drew Hansen M Fr Cleveland, N.C. Christ the King Catholic School N/A
23 Arne Michaelis D Fr. Krefeld, Germany Rhein Maas Berufskolleg Willich N/A
24 AJ Seals M 5th Orlando, FL UCF Started 13 games, 2 assists
26 Shane Wright GK Fr Orlando, FL Trinity Preparatory School N/A
27 Pablo Ossabal GK Fr Medellin, Colombia Celebration HS N/A
28 Junior Trucillo F So. Tega Cay, SC UCF Played in 5 games.
29 Joey Mueller F R-Fr St. John's Co., FL UCF Redshirted
30 Itai Levisman M Fr. Raanana, Israel Aviv HS N/A
31 Juanvi Muñoz GK So. Valencia, Spain UCF Started 13 games, AAC All-Rookie Team, 48 saves, 71.6 Save %, 1.46 GAA

The Schedule

We already broke down this schedule in a separate article here.

To summarize, the non-conference schedule is highlighted by a road opener against Clemson, who was picked as the favorite to win the ACC Championship, and a home match against FIU.

As for its conference play schedule in the Sun Belt, the conference tied for the second-most teams to finish in the Top 100 RPI last season, so just because it’s a new conference does not mean it’s going to get any easier for UCF.

Of particular note are back-to-back matches against preseason Top 15 teams in Marshall and Kentucky.

UCF Men’s Soccer 2023 Schedule

Date Day H/A Opponent Conf. Preseason Rank Coaches Poll 2022 RPI 2022 Record Last Season
Date Day H/A Opponent Conf. Preseason Rank Coaches Poll 2022 RPI 2022 Record Last Season
Aug 24 Thu A Clemson ACC - 1st 9 11 13-7-1 4th ACC Atlantic, L ACC Final, L NCAA 2nd Round
Aug 27 Sun H Stetson ASUN - 4th - 109 6-3-7 3rd ASUN, L ASUN 1st Round
Sep 1 Fri H NC State ACC - 6th in Atlantic - 75 6-7-4 6th ACC Atlantic, L ACC 1st Round
Sep 5 Tue H FIU American - 1st 21 19 13-5-2 AAC Season & Tournament Champions, L NCAA 3rd Round
Sep 9 Sat H Brown Ivy League - TBA - 92 8-6-3 8th Ivy League
Sep 15 Fri H West Virginia Sun Belt - 3rd RV 53 7-7-4 4th SBC, Lost SBC Semifinal to Kentucky
Sep 23 Sat A Marshall Sun Belt - 2nd 11 29 11-4-4 2nd SBC, L SBC 1st Round, L NCAA 3rd Round
Sep 29 Fri A Kentucky Sun Belt - 1st 3 6 15-1-5 1st SBC, Won SBC Tournament, NCAA #1 Seed, L NCAA 3rd Round
Oct 7 Sat H Georgia Southern Sun Belt - 10th - 186 1-14-1 9th SBC, DNQ SBC Tournament
Oct 14 Sat A Old Dominion Sun Belt - 9th - 89 6-8-2 6th SBC, L SBC 1st Round
Oct 18 Wed H Coastal Carolina Sun Belt - T-6th - 59 5-5-6 5th SBC, L SBC 1st Round
Oct 22 Sun A South Carolina Sun Belt - 5th RV 76 5-8-4 8th SBC, L SBC 1st Round
Oct 27 Fri A Georgia State Sun Belt - T-6th - 48 12-4-3 3rd SBC, L SBC Semifinal to JMU
Oct 31 Tue H James Madison Sun Belt - 8th - 54 8-8-4 7th SBC, L SBC Final to Kentucky
View UCF’s release

Sun Belt Conference Tournament:

  • Quarterfinals (Sites of #1 and #2 Seeds): Nov. 5
  • Semifinals (Sites of #1 and #2 Seeds): Nov. 8
  • Final (Hosted by the higher-seeded team): Nov. 12

The Last Time...

UCF had consecutive losing seasons: 2014-2016. This three-season stretch of losing seasons did in former head coach Bryan Cunningham, Calabrese’s predecessor. While UCF’s current head coach is under contract through the 2027 season, having just the one losing season compared to multiple can always help one’s job security.