Story by Cassie Campise
Sandra Day O’Connor High School men’s soccer alum Tyler Kirberg is enjoying his first season at UCLA, and is hopeful to get some playing time.
Finding his love for the goalkeeper position at 10-years-old, Kirberg has not looked back now that he’s in the Pac-12.
“The way I kind of look at it, it’s just kind of a totally unique position,” Kirberg said. “I almost look at it as kind of the quarterback. And I can direct everybody in front of me and dive around and make saves and be like a mad man out there.”
Some of the biggest accomplishments in his soccer career include winning the National Youth Soccer Championship in 2016 and moving away from home to play for the Real Salt Lake Academy team in Utah.
“I think that’s when I knew I really have a shot at going somewhere with this,” he said. “I kind of stuck through it and luckily ended up here.”
It hasn’t all been easy for Kirberg, though. He was cut from the Salt Lake team after a year but used it as motivation to help him find his love for the game again. He came back to Arizona and played for Phoenix Rising FC.
He had been training with the professional team since he was 14-years-old. He enjoyed every second of it.
“After getting cut, it was rough and I was lost and that’s when I went to Rising and found the love for the game again,” Kirberg said.
In high school, Kirberg was interested in schools such as Grand Canyon, San Francisco, University of Pacific, and Pittsburgh. That is, until UCLA gave him an offer in February of 2020.
“The name UCLA is so universal, as soon as the coach reached out to me, I felt like, ‘You know what? I think this is the place for me, especially on the soccer side,’” Kirberg said. “Some of the past goalkeepers that have come out have been the best in US history. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of those guys, and hopefully make it pro one day.”
Now seven months into his first year in Los Angeles, Kirberg feels like he is acclimated and can prove to everyone why he belongs there. His number one goal this year is to get minutes as a freshman.
“I think the biggest thing for me is hopefully to get some minutes at some point and also push the guy that’s starting over me,” Kirberg said. “The whole goalkeeper unit, the whole goal of it is to just push each other and make each other better. For me to keep pushing the guy in front of me is probably the best thing I can do right now.”
Lauren Kirberg, the younger sister of Tyler and a 2021 ASU soccer commit, said that growing up watching her brother develop into the player he is, has inspired her to be a better soccer player as a center back.
“Even though we played different positions, it’s definitely cool to see how he is on the field and how I can take that for myself and implement it when I’m playing,” she said.
Kirberg’s ultimate goal with the Bruins is to get the starting position and make it to the professional level in the future. He feels the Pac-12 power can get him there as he looks to build every year.
“Just to get the starting job as soon as I can and getting minutes, so I can get scouts looking at me and help the team win,” Kirberg said. “It’s just to keep getting better and keep improving my craft every time I play.”