ANAHEIM -- The local pro indoor soccer club is still figuring things out, on and off the field, and it's not going well at the moment. The Anaheim Bolts' game presentation still requires some honing, as can attest the crowd at Friday night's game at the Anaheim Convention Center, but at least crowds appear to be growing.
The real crisis is the Bolts' propensity for second-half collapse, and they set a new standard for that Friday, watching a five-goal advantage disappear in a 14-13 loss to the Tijuana Revoluccion. That's three times they've let a lead of at least three goals get away, and they lost another game in which they led in the fourth quarter, then conceded the final six goals.
“It's a bad sign,” said Bolts head coach Bernie Lilavois, whose team dropped to 3-5 with a worse-than-it-sounds 13-6 loss Saturday night at San Diego, the Professional Arena Soccer League's Western Division leader. “If it's one or two games, you can deal with it, knowing you're team's in a funk. But all the adjustments we've been working on -- during training, at halftime -- nothing seems to be working. I've got to start looking at things, not just at myself coaching-wise, but also the players.”
The first-year Bolts were up, 7-2, heading into the final 15 seconds of the first half against Tijuana (4-4), which scored just before the break, then took over as Cesar Romero scored five second-half goals. The Revoluccion's counterattack carved up Anaheim, going a 12-4 sprint to build a three-goal lead before Paul Wright and Rafael Gaytan trimmed the deficit in the final minute.
When things go wrong, the Bolts seem to forget their fundamentals. They fail to press, don't adequately defend the pass and struggle to get back on defense, enabling foes to sprint past for easy goals.
“You get a cut on the arm, and the bleeding won't stop, and you don't know what to do to make it stop,” Lilavois said. “They score a goal against us, and then it's seven goals against us. We just can't stop those streaks.”
Lilavois is still building the roster and says he needs to find another defender or two, preferably indoor veterans who can instill the kind of steel needed to withstand opposing runs.
Throw in two-time defending PASL Pro champ San Diego's 9-1 start Saturday -- that's into the third quarter -- and the Bolts were outscored, 23-7, over 68 minutes, 22 seconds of action, about 4½ quarters.
The Sockers (6-0) dominated a “chippy” clash, building a 12-3 lead five minutes into the fourth quarter as 2011 league MVP Kraig Chiles netted five goals. The Bolts had led in the second half of the first two meetings, back in November, and San Diego “really did their homework and had a real good game plan against us,” Lilavois conceded. “They were well-rested and well-prepared.”
It was over so soon that Lilavois shifted to extra-attacker tactics at halftime, pulling goalkeeper Jesus Molina for Wright whenever the Bolts gained possession, and sending him back when San Diego came up with the ball. It cost them two empty-netters, but the aggression was a real plus, and Anaheim was outscored by just 6-5 in the second half.
The game ended shortly after a brawl that led to three red cards, with Bolts defender Brennan Tennelle and midfielder John Sherman picking up bans for next weekend's game at Tijuana. That's OK, Lilavois said.
“The whole game was chippy. We're rivals,” Lilavois said. “The whole game -- and a lot of people were saying we were dirty, but that had nothing to do with it. Both teams were chippy. We've got price. I told the guys we were going to play the full 60 minutes. Whether we lost, 30-0 or 7-6, we want to really battle. There was a huge crowd [2,334 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds] and the emotions got the best of everyone.
“I think it's great. It shows my team really cares about it. I see a different mentality going forward.”
WORTH NOTING: The Bolts were without sparkplug midfielder Adriano de Lima, who was vacationing in Hawaii with family visiting from Brazil, a trip planned well before the team was signing players. ... Gaytan and Hugo Casillas had hat tricks against Tijuana, and Enrique Tovar netted three at San Diego, giving him a team-best 15 goals. ... The Bolts' permanent home field -- the surface and the boards and glass that surround it -- finally arrived last week, much later than anticipated, and the game Friday was played with panes of glass next to and above the nets but not around the corners. Tijuana's staff was fine with that, and the referees signed off. ... The game drew 1,275, the Bolts' best crowd in three home games. Delays at the start, a halftime that went on twice as long as it should gave and extended breaks between quarters pushed the length of the match to almost three hours, drawing complaints from a few fans on the Bolts' Facebook page. ... The Bolts' loss last month at Turlock, in which they let a four-goal lead get away, turned out to be a U.S. Open Arena Cup second-round match. ... Anaheim is back home Jan. 27 against San Diego. ... San Diego honored legendary coach Ron Newman at Saturday's game.