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BLUES: Focus is Harrisburg, not Richmond

8/13/2011

FULLERTON -- Not a whole lot happened as the L.A. Blues opened their final homestand Friday night against the Richmond Kickers with a 0-0 draw at Cal State Fullerton. They'll meet again Sunday in Norco, in the USL Pro's regular-season finale.

It's the Harrisburg City Islanders, rather than the Kickers, that the Blues (8-7-8) are thinking about: That's whom L.A. will face in their playoff opener next Friday in Pennsylvania.

The Blues have won only one of their last seven and none of their last four, and the excitement that accompanied a 3-0-0 and 4-1-1 start has largely dissipated, gone after Argentine playmaker Walter Gaitan's exit in mid-June.

With the championship to be determined in an eight-team, single-elimination event, the Blues need to be on for only three games to win a trophy, and Charlie Naimo likes his chances.

“There were wasted opportunities during the season we can look back on,” the Blues' head coach said, “but now it's the second season. That's all that matters.”

Orlando City's 4-0 romp Friday night over Harrisburg gave Rochester the National Division title, and Charleston claimed the final postseason berth with a 4-3 win over Charlotte. That set these quarterfinal matchups:

National Division

  • L.A. Blues at Harrisburg

  • Pittsburgh at Rochester

American Division

  • Charleston at Orlando City

  • Richmond vs. Wilmington, home team to be determined

Naimo likes the Blues' path.

“I really like us against Harrisburg,” he said. “I do. I think it's a good matchup for us. We drew with them twice. The game we lost [to them], obviously, I think we were very unlucky to lose against them, but, hey, credit to them for getting the result.

“I think that I like our chances against Harrisburg. We're not afraid of the road, this team. We've been good on the road.”

Better on the road (5-3-4) than at Titan Stadium, where the Blues went 0-4-2, including a U.S. Open Cup loss to the Galaxy. Their struggles were a product of Gaitan's decision, because he wanted more money, to leave the team although he was under contract.

L.A. couldn't do what it could when Gaitan was around, and they've been searching for the right attacking presence since.

“When you lose Gaitan, that's huge,” Naimo said. “We were starting to build our team around him, and it was coming together nice, and we were starting to play some good soccer. I mean attractive, productive. Losing that guy -- because we still don't have a No. 10 on this team. You take the best No. 10 in the league out of your team, and you go to no 10. It just changes your dynamic. ...

“We're a different team now. We don't have the creator that can pull something out of nothing. We've got to be better with the ball collectively.”