Not only during his time on the UCSB men’s soccer team, but even now as a professional, Nexus Male Athlete of the Year senior forward Ivan Becerra knows how to make things happen.
Things like setting up the winning goal in the 2004 to give UCSB the Big West Conference title. Like leading the Gauchos with 12 goals last year, which was good enough for 10th on UCSB’s all-time single season list. Like being drafted in the third round after the end of the Gauchos’ season and playing for Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew.
“I’m just excited to be here [in Columbus],” Becerra said. “Playing at Harder Stadium at night, it’s the best. I miss being there, the crowd going wild, scoring some goals, being with my teammates. Now I’m moving on from there, I’m just trying to climb the ladder.”
Becerra’s performance last year as the finisher for a strong Gaucho offense was worthy of a selection on the Big West All-Conference First Team. Of his 12 goals, six were game-winners. He also scored a goal in each of the Gauchos’ NCAA playoff games. Yet despite an outstanding year, Becerra said it was the 2004 season that set him on track to be where he is now. After transferring from Mission College, he came to learn the work ethic and heart of a UCSB team that was set to make it to the NCAA Championship.
“It was quite good; it was my first year, we had a bunch of guys that had been there and wanted to win a national championship,” Becerra said. “[The older players] worked their hearts out, and I think I kind of fed from that. Them being there and doing that hard work kind of made me do that as well. No matter if I don’t have time, I always try to do that.”
Becerra is optimistic about the future of UCSB soccer. With a good core of young players, led by freshman of the year Eric Avila, who now have playoff experience, UCSB should continue performing well in the postseason.
“The group of players that the coaches have been bringing in has been working that hard. It was good playing with all those guys,” Becerra said. “I hope that this year we can get to the playoffs and win, now that the young players have been there.”
After playing with UCSB for only two years, one of which as a full-time starter, living in Columbus, Ohio and playing professionally is a good opportunity for Becerra and proof of the strength of the Gaucho soccer program. Becerra said that despite starring as a forward for the Gauchos, his new coach sees a lot of potential in him as a defender, and Becerra is working toward that goal.
“[Living in Columbus] is really nice, you know, but the only thing that sucks, it’s really far from Santa Barbara,” Becerra said. “I didn’t explode ’til my last year, I started scoring some goals and putting my name out there. The coach sees something in me; they are converting me to a defender and he’s happy with my performance. I’m just really focused on getting started, and going out there and playing.”
Even though he is now playing in front of thousands of people in person and on television, Becerra is still humble and thanks UCSB for getting him to where he is.
“Soccer in Santa Barbara is like football; having 12,000 people out for a game is amazing,” Becerra said. “It’s a big, big sport in SB and people support us, and it’s great. Hopefully down the line, people will ask me where I went to school and I’ll say SB, that’s where it all happened.”