Like many other stories, this one started with a tweet:
Well, we indeed missed a few. As the replies started pouring, we quickly realized the depth of soccer talent in the Inland Empire. The I.E. is a hot bed for competitive local sports and with a population of over four million, it’s easy to understand the region’s potential in talent development.
Soccer is all throughout the Inland Empire. You have the various academies throughout each city, with one of the highest quality youth tournaments happening at the Silverlakes Sports Complex in Corona, CA. Colleges like Cal Baptist University and UC Riverside have contributed to the development of MLS talents Aaron Long of the NY Red Bulls and Micheal Salazar of the Montreal Impact (on loan at Ottawa Fury FC) . And of course some of my favorite local UPSL and NPSL action from clubs such as Inland Empire FC, High Desert FC, and Riverside Coras FC.
For the purposes of this article, I defined I.E. as both Riverside and San Bernardino County.
So let’s check out some players:
Carlos Bocanegra: Alta Loma
This USMNT legend has been capped 110 times, while appearing in two World Cups. He played in college at UCLA and went on to play professionally in MLS and in Europe, most notably at Fulham FC.
Ted Chronopoulos: Rialto
Ted played three years of college soccer at Cal State San Bernardino and San Diego State. He signed his first professional contract in 1993 for Greek club Panionios and went on to play over a decade throughout MLS and USL.
Landon Donovan: Ontario
Arguably the countries greatest ever male player. He played in three World Cups, was capped 157 times and is the all-time leading goal scorer, at 57, tied with Clint Dempsey. While Landon played professionally in Germany at an early age, he found himself at home in MLS, where he helped shine a light on a growing league.
Brian Dunseth: Upland
Captain of the 2000’s US olympic team and professional in MLS and Sweden. Brian has embraced the media side and has become a well-known soccer analyst.
Maurice Edu: Fontana
MLS Rookie of the Year in 2007, capped 46 times with the USMNT and had professionally career throughout Europe. After his standout rookie season, Edu earned a transfer to the legendary Scottish club, Rangers Football Club, where he appeared 96 times.
Joe Franchino: Fontana
Joe attended Cal State Fullerton and transferred to the University of Washington. After he was drafted by the LA Galaxy. He went on to play majority of his career with New England Revolution.
Ari Lassiter: Temecula
A current member of the LA Galaxy who plays for both the first team and LA Galaxy II “Los Dos” of the USL. He played college soccer at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and started his professional career in Sweden.
Aaron Long: Oak Hills
A graduate from UC Riverside, Long signed with the Portland Timbers in the 2014 MLS Superdraft. He began to work his way through USL, to the New York Red Bulls and a recent call-up to the USMNT.
Richie Marquez: Bloomington
Richie graduated from the University of Redlands and was taken in the 2014 MLS Superdraft, by the Philadelphia Union. Currently he is on loan with the Union affiliate, Bethlehem Steel.
Chad Marshall: Riverside
Quite possibly the greatest ever MLS defender. Marshall has won two MLS Cups, four supporter’s shields, the U.S. Open Cup and achieved multiple individual honors.
Lee Nishanian: Rancho Cucamonga
Attended Cal State San Bernadino and went on to play with multiple clubs within the USL.
Jesus Ochoa: Riverside
One of three brothers who became professional soccer players. The oldest brother, Jesus, attended Cal Baptist University and turned pro in 2001 when he signed with the Portland Timbers ( USL first division). He spent time in Mexico, as well as MLS.
Samuel Ochoa: Riverside
Currently Samuel plays for the Las Vegas Lights FC (USL), but has had a journeyman like career, playing with multiple clubs in Mexico and the United States.
Norberto Ochoa: Riverside
The youngest of the three professionals, Norberto, had a short professional career. He attended Mt. SAC, spent time in Europe and attended UC Riverside his senior year. He went on to play for Charlotte Independence (USL)
Michael Randolph: Chino Hills
Mike played college soccer in Arizona until he joined the Portland Timbers (USL first division) in 2006. From there he went on to play at multiple MLS and USL clubs.
Ante Razov: Fontana
This legendary MLS goal-scorer, is fifth on the all time scoring list with 114 goals. Before his legendary career he played at UCLA and was drafted by the LA Galaxy. He is currently the assistant coach at LAFC.
Nick Rimando: Montclair
Another MLS all-time great! This goalkeeper attended UCLA, with Bocanegra, and has gone on to have an amazing MLS career. Not only a great shot-stopper, but skilled with the ball on his feet. His unique skill set kept him intertwined with the USMNT for many years.
Michael Salazar: Moreno Valley
This Belize international attened Cal Baptist University and UC Riverside , before being drafted by the Montreal Impact in 2016. Currently he is on loan at Ottawa Fury FC.
Ethan Zubak: Corona
Ethan worked his way through the LA Galaxy academy and has been playing with LA Galaxy II since 2015.
We know we still missed a few and even more professionals are in the making. The important thing to notice is the potential within our community. Each player showed a different route to make it into the professional ranks. Supporting a community club helps develop more routes for players to work up within our closed system. So get out and find your local club whether its high school, college, NPSL, UPSL or just a team at the park. Who knows, maybe you’ll be witnessing the next USMNT legend.