This past Saturday the Rebels closed out their 2019 spring schedule with a home match against
Brigham Young University’s club team. As is typical with college spring programs, UNLV sported a
lineup which might have little resemblance to the actual eleven that takes the field next August in their
first varsity game. On the surface the competition, being a club team, might have seemed to be below
UNLV’s standard, even in the spring. But that would be deceiving. The NCAA is famous for it’s
numerous restrictions on the eligibility of it’s athletes, but clubs do not necessarily operate under the
same rules. Many participants in club/recreational sports would be ineligible under NCAA rules. In
addition, BYU is no slouch in club soccer. In making it to the NIRSA (the club version of the NCAA)
national Elite Eight last fall they established themselves as a powerhouse in the collegiate club soccer
And any thought that the Cougars would be an easy touch were dashed early in the match. The
Rebels came out in a 4-3-3 formation and when in possession in the back, they pushed their outside
backs up while bring defensive midfielder Nico Clasen back to orchestrate the buildup from the back.
BYU responded by pressing high, at the least… to force long balls from the Rebels or, at best…to gain
possession deep in the UNLV defense if they could win the ball. Sure enough, nine minutes into the
game the Cougars jumped on a poor Rebel pass reception to take the lead.
However, 5 minutes was all it took for the Rebels to answer. A series of possession passes in
their own half followed by a searching ball down the left produced a Cougar foul just outside the BYU
penalty area. UNLV played the ball short and Clasen hit a masterpiece into the left side of the goal from
20 yds… 1-1.
UNLV continued the offensive, a nice set of passes through the middle produced a wicked shot
from the right side by Ivan Farias stretching the BYU keeper into a difficult save. And only 2 minutes
later a long ball down the right again set up Farias for a keeper-parried attempt which gave the Rebels a
At that point the Cougars dropped off to stop the deep incursions by the UNLV attack and while
successful in cutting off any more goal chances it also gave a good deal of midfield control to the home
team. Finally, at 34 minutes BYU put together a string of passes which gave them some penetration and
4 minutes later they got a man free in the Rebel penalty area. Although the ref decided the ensuing
tackle was not a penalty kick , the UNLV back line was reminded that the Cougars were still capable of
The second half continued the trend established in the first. The home team maintained field
position, but had difficulty turning it into anything significant while BYU did not threaten with any of
their few minutes of ball control. During the half coach Rich Ryerson made some changes in position
for some of the UNLV players, most notably moving Marco Gonzalez from midfield to a central
forward spot. Marco’s speed proved to be a big problem for the BYU defense. The Rebels occasionally
used a straight through ball down the middle to catch the visitors central defense moving up, as the play
was dominated by midfield short passes. 32 minutes into the half a long ball found Gonzalez and he
was unfortunate not to score and 5 minutes later a central through ball put Marco in as he coolly went
around the onrushing keeper to give UNLV the lead.
The last 10 minutes were very different though. BYU pushed hard for the equalizer and the
Rebels couldn’t relieve the pressure for any length of time. Only some very scrappy play in front of the
home goal kept the lead and a UNLV victory.
The game was one of UNLV dominance after the initial BYU goal and the result was reflective
of the play although the last few minutes caused some scary moments for the Rebels. The spring season
solidified the general feeling that the Rebels have some very strong areas and some parts of their game,
particularly more clinical production from their time in their attacking third, which can be improved
upon. With the addition of some strong inbound talent and the return of most of last season’s squad,
next fall looks to be an exciting one for the Rebel faithful.
Spring season for American college soccer programs is a unique time. Similar to college
football spring practice, last fall’s seniors are gone and next year’s recruiting class hasn’t arrived yet. So,
without those elements, the spring is a time for improving ball skills, communication and a chance for
last fall’s second teamers to establish themselves as strong candidates for starting positions next varsity
season. But there is an important difference between soccer spring and football spring. Soccer teams
can play outside competition and can play types of opponents they will not see during the fall varsity
The UNLV spring season is just such a time for the Rebels and in playing the professional
Austin (TX.) Bold, they had a match that would not appear on their schedule next October. And, despite
the seeming disparity between a professional side and a college one, the Rebels gave a good account of
In the opening minutes, the pros attempted to establish their dominance by playing a high
defensive line and attacking quickly and directly. But the UNLV defense held firm and managed to
counter. Using a midfield of Nikko Classen, Jesus Partida, Timo Mehlich and Marco Gonzalez, they
brought the ball out of their defensive area quickly and effectively. In the twelfth minute a contested
ball in midfield popped past that high Bold line and UNLV forward Bryan Martinez pounced on it and
using an nice cut to his right, he beat Austin’s goalkeeper and scored. The Bold didn’t change their play
and just a couple minutes later Mehlich hit the right post, almost putting the Rebels up two. Austin
settled their offense and playing more of a possession game they exerted more control offensively.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the 31st minute of the 35 minute half that they threatened, hitting the UNLV
crossbar. The Rebels managed to clear the danger and went into halftime at 1-0 ahead.
In the second half Austin made an adjustment. They pulled their back line back to a more
moderate position and used the added space to spread the ball more and open the UNLV midfield. This
gave them some openings to use in attacking the Rebel goal. For the most part the UNLV defense was
quick to react and when their midfield did win the ball a quick strike was on. Timo used that advantage
to almost catch the Bold keeper far off his line with a long attempt at 10 minutes of the half.
At the 12 minute mark the Bold broke through and a controversial foul was called just outside
of the Rebel penalty area on the far left side. Austin sent a low ball across the penalty area which found
its way to Bold feet just in front of the goal and the game was tied at 1. As the half wore on, Austin’s
possession began to take a toll although the occasional steal by the Rebels produced some effective
counters, particularity down the UNLV right and the Rebels gained a few corners and a couple near
misses off of them.
At the 26 minutes the Rebels were forced to foul in order to break up a fast Bold attack about 25
yds from goal. At that point Austin launched a world class free kick into the upper left corner of the
goal and they had the lead. In the 31st minute, Classen took the ball from a Bold player and started an
excellent attack which resulted in Marco Gonzalez hitting a perfect low cross in front of goal, but there
was no finish and that proved to be UNLV’s last chance to score.
Given the level of their competition, the Rebels were certainly competitive and while the result
was a 2-1 defeat, remembering the objectives of spring season it must be said that UNLV had an
encouraging experience against the pros.
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) – A pair of players from the UNLV Men’s Soccer team, Marco Gonzalez and Nico Classen, earned their first career regional honor as both were selected to the United Soccer Coaches All-Far West Region Third team, the national organization announced Wednesday. This marks the third time in the past four years the Rebels have placed multiple players on the all-region squads.
Gonzalez, a sophomore forward and native of Las Vegas, paced the Rebels this year in both goals (10) and points (23), which ranked him fifth in the WAC in both categories. He notched a pair of multi-goal games this year, including a hat trick against Evansville, and finished the season with three game-winners as well on the way to earning second-team All-WAC honors.
Clasen, a native of Mönchengladbach, Germany, set a new UNLV freshman record and was just one off the school record for total assists in a season with 10 in his first year in the Scarlet & Gray. That also ranked him in a tie for seventh in the nation, and was the second-highest in the WAC as well. This is the second season honor for Clasen after he was also named to the WAC All-Freshman squad. He is also the first-ever Rebel to earn all-region status as a freshman.
UNLV finished the season at 10-10-1, which pushed its streak of 10-win seasons to a school-record five straight.