LOCALS: USL Pro has SoCal flavor
If you're looking for a local team to support in the USL Pro, the third-division league in American soccer's pyramid, the L.A. Blues aren't your only option.
There's also the Wilmington Hammerheads.
The North Carolina club, which will visit the Blues for a couple of games next month at Cal State Fullerton, have the largest collection of Southern California talent in the league: seven players from the area, another who played college ball here, and one more -- not sure he really counts -- who was with the Blues for a short spell last year.
They're among 32 players from Greater Los Angeles in USL Pro, which heads into its third weekend of games with Friday night's Blues-Rochester match at Fullerton.
The Blues, who featured a heavily local roster in their first season, have three players from the area (Anaheim's Carlos Borja, Newport Beach's Bryan Burke and Long Beach's Luis Gonzalez), four more from local colleges (UC Irvine's Irving Garcia, Cal State Fullerton's Shay Spitz and Bethesda Christian's Sun-Hyung Cho and Cheun-Yong Park), plus a former Galaxy winger who has called SoCal home since signing with MLS at 16 nearly five years ago (Israel Sesay).
The Rochester Rhinos, who won a league opener over the Blues last weekend, also have a decent contingent led by former UCLA star Mike Zaher and UC Santa Barbara products Conor Chinn and Tyler Rosenlund. All three, plus former Galaxy defenders Quavas Kirk and Troy Roberts, have MLS experience.
Orlando City has Palmdale's Maxwell Griffin, a UCLA alum whose performance for the champs last year led to a late-season loan deal to the San Jose Earthquakes. Pittsburgh has Long Beach's Tino Nuņez, from UC Santa Barbara, who spent a couple seasons with Real Salt Lake. Three goalkeepers are in the group: L.A.'s Kevin Klasila at Charlotte, Huntington Beach's Kyle Polak with Wilmington, and Laguna Hills' Eric Reed at Charlotte.
Wilmington's So Cal group includes former Chivas USA forward Chukwudi Chijindu, a Fontana product who spent last season with the Blues on loan from the Goats, plus Hollywood's Jack Avesyan and Hagop Chirishian, Laguna Hills' Trey Cole, Lakewood's Manny Guzman and Thousand Oaks' Dylan Riley.
Here's a full list of players with local ties in the USL Pro (with hometown and local high school/college in parenthesis, with local adult club following):
LOS ANGELES BLUES
D Carlos Borja (Anaheim/Loara HS), Chivas USA/Anaheim Bolts
D Bryan Burke (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS)
D Sun-Hyung Cho (Bethesda Christian Univ.)
M Irving Garcia (UC Irvine)
F Luis Gonzalez (Long Beach/Millikan HS and Cerritos College/Cal Poly Pomona)
M/F Cheun-Yong Park (Bethesda Christian Univ.)
F Israel Sesay, L.A. Galaxy/Hollywood United
M/D Shay Spitz (Cal State Fullerton)
G Kevin Klasila (Los Angeles/Loyola HS), San Fernando Valley Quakes
F Milton Blanco, Chivas USA
D Mark Bloom, Southern California Seahorses
M/F Ben Page, Southern California Seahorses
G Eric Reed (Laguna Hills/Laguna Hills HS and UCLA), Southern California Seahorses
M/F Brad Stisser (Loyola Marymount)
AC Steve Shak (Cerritos/Cerritos HS and UCLA)
HARRISBURG CITY ISLANDERS
G Nick Noble, L.A. Galaxy
ORLANDO CITY SC
D Kyle Davies, L.A. Galaxy
F Maxwell Griffin (Palmdale/Littlerock HS and UCLA), L.A. Legends/San Fernando Valley Quakes
F Tino Nuņez (Long Beach/Millikan HS and Compton College/UC Santa Barbara)
D Kyle Veris, L.A. Galaxy
F Conor Chinn, Orange County Blue Star
D Quavas Kirk, L.A. Galaxy
D Troy Roberts, L.A. Galaxy
M Tyler Rosenlund (UC Santa Barbara)
D Mike Zaher (UCLA), San Fernando Valley Quakes
M Hagop “Jack” Avesyan (Hollywood), Ventura County Fusion
F Andriy Budnyi (Azusa Pacific)
F Chukwudi Chijindu (Fontana/Damien HS), Chivas USA
M Hagop Chirishian (Hollywood/A.G.B.U. Manoogian-Demirdjian School and Pasadena City College), Ventura County Fusion
D Troy Cole (Laguna Hills/Laguna Hills HS and Irvine Valley College)
D Gareth Evans, L.A. Blues
M Manny Guzman (Lakewood/West Torrance HS and L.A. Harbor College), Ventura County Fusion
G Kyle Polak (Huntington Beach/Fountain Valley HS and Cal State Fullerton/Cal State Dominguez Hills), Chivas USA
D Dylan Riley (Thousand Oaks/Thousand Oaks HS and Cal State Northridge), Ventura County Fusion