ANAHEIM -- Bernie Lilavois said the Anaheim Bolts' meeting Saturday night with Arizona would be a “statement game,” and the club sure took him at his word.
The Bolts ended a five-game losing streak with a 17-3 rout of the lowly Storm at the Anaheim Convention Center's arena, easily posting a season-high for goals and giving their sagging playoff hopes a little lift.
It's still a long road to fulfilling Lilavois' preseason “guarantee” that Southern California's indoor team would reach the Professional Arena Soccer League's postseason in its first season, but this is all just growing pains, the Bolts' managing partner/head coach/sometimes player noted following Friday's 10-5 loss to San Diego.
“It's a process,” he said. “At any time, Tijuana and Turlock -- the teams we're chasing in the standings -- they can drop a couple games here and there, and we might sneak in. It's an overall process. I said it from Day One: We don't want to be one year and out, it's a long-term thing.”
Sneaking in will take some doing. There are three Western Division berths in the seven-team PASL Pro playoffs, and San Diego (13-0) has one of them as final-four host -- and the Sockers, two-time defending league champs, already have the Western title after Saturday's 13-2 defeat of Tijuana.
Tijuana and Turlock are 7-5 and meet Feb. 17 in Northern California. Turlock's next two games are at Arizona, at 1-11 the league's worst side; Tijuana also has a game left with the Storm.
The Bolts (4-7) have five games to go, four of them against Tacoma (3-7). Might be out of reach.
“It's definitely tough,” Lilavois said. “San Diego's the best team in the league, period, and everyone else is in that kind of mix, and we're a couple games behind them. We'll try to turn it around, get on a little run and end the season on a positive note.”
The Bolts started well Friday, taking three one-goal leads in the first quarter, but they scored just two more the rest of the way as the Sockers' quality took charge. Reigning MVP Kraig Chiles had a hat trick, and he scored four more against Tijuana to reach 42, breaking Lilavois' PASL Pro single-season goals record. Lilavois scored 40 for the California Cougars in 2008-09, the inaugural season.
“[San Diego has] got the best players, they spend money like crazy -- I don't understand [that in] this league, with the salary cap, but I've got local guys, they fly guys in. You know what I mean? It's crazy. But it is what it is. They're two-time defending champions, and they show why. There's no one who can keep up with them.”
Meantime, Arizona (a first-year club that already has rebranded; the Phoenix Monsoon started the season) can keep up with no one. The Bolts scored 13 of the last 14 goals in Saturday's rout, with new arrival Felipe Gonzalez scoring four goals and Tomislav Colic adding three goals and two assists.
Juan Gonzalez, Felipe's twin brother (they arrived, along with Osbaldo Gonzalez, no relation, from Bolts forward Enrique Tovar's San Jose-based club), scored twice and assisted two more.
The additions help, with defenders Carlos Borja and Cam Dunn concentrating primarily on outdoor soccer, midfielder Brennan Tennelle on trial at an unidentified Turkish club, midfielder Patric Ruiz dealing with visa issues at home in Guatemala, and defender Marcus Watson nursing an ankle injury.
Lilavois, 42, who played in the 28-7 loss at Tijuana two weeks earlier, didn't play in either game this weekend, but he might return to the field.
“I think I can help them on the field, kind of showing them some of the things,” he said. “It's so frustrating at times trying to kind of tell them the little intricacies of indoor, and they haven't been there before. With the Sockers, they're all veteran players. They all know what you're talking about.”