OPEN CUP: Blues battle tough slate
May, 22, 2012
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Proceeding in the U.S. Open Cup is a priority for the L.A. Blues, who enter the competition Tuesday against the Ventura County Fusion, and they'd love to take a shot next week at Chivas USA if they win.
Getting there won't be easy. The Blues (3-2-1), if they beat the Fusion in the in a second-round game at Fullerton College, face four games in eight days on two coasts. The USL Pro contests between the Open Cup dates are against two of the third-division league's best clubs, defending champion Orlando City SC (6-0-1) and Charleston Battery (4-2-0).
Something's got to give.
“I'd like a different schedule, let's leave it at that ...,” Blues head coach/general manager Charlie Naimo told ESPN Los Angeles on Monday. “Really, it is out of my control. Out of the organization's control. You can't worry about what you don't control, you just have to go out and do it. I have to decide based on what happens [Tuesday] how I want to play Thursday and Saturday. I have to choose.”
Orlando City's situation is the same as the Blues', with four games in eight days if it wins its Open Cup opener Tuesday, but the Lions would sit at home until next week's third-round game at Sporting Kansas City, provided they beat K.C. Athletics, a U.S. Adult Soccer Association side. Charleston also has an Open Cup game but plays just once on the weekend.
Naimo's approach will be fairly straightforward. Beating the Fusion is important, but it likely won't require a first-choice lineup -- Ventura, amateurs from the USL's Premier Development League is playing its fourth game in eight days -- and the goal is victory in Orlando.
“I'm thinking our guys will be up to play the defending champions,” Naimo said. “We're going after that game. We're not going in to try to steal a point. We want to win that game.”
Do so and, if the date with Chivas is on for May, the Blues “might not put in guys who won't be able to play against Charleston and Chivas. It's tough to do that. ... My goal is winning [Tuesday], have a good result against Orlando. Can't think much beyond that point.”
The Fusion, its roster bolstered by pros Rodrigo Lopez (ex-Chivas USA and Portland Timbers), Mike Randolph (ex-Galaxy and Blues) and Brent Whitfield (ex-Chivas USA), are starting to assert themselves in the PDL's Southwest Division after getting just a draw in two matches with L.A. Misioneros to start the season. They were the better team in last week's first-round game, a 6-2 overtime win against the Fullerton Rangers, and played the Blues tough in the second round of the Open Cup last year.
Randolph and Whitfield aren't eligible for Ventura in the Open Cup, and Naimo said he was “not disappointed I'm not going to see” them in the game. “Both are dangerous players. Both are good players.”
There are two other Open Cup second-round games Tuesday involving local clubs. USASA Region IV champion PSA Elite, from Irvine, plays at second-tier Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C., and would advance with a victory to a third-round game next week against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center. Thousand Oaks' Cal FC, Eric Wynalda's team, plays at USL Pro side Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads, with the winner taking on the Portland Timbers.
WORTH NOTING: Bright Dike will not be available Tuesday -- he's returning to the Portland Timbers for their friendly Wednesday night against Spanish club Valencia, then will join the Blues in Orlando -- and fellow forward Maykel Galindo, returning from a hamstring injury, isn't quite ready to go. Naimo hopes Galindo, a former Chivas USA star, can play at Orlando. ... Also out with injuries are defender Matt Hall and midfielder Brian Farber. ... The Blues are still waiting for Iranian defender Rahman Rezaei to clear a background check before he can join the team. ... Naimo called Charleston's Blackbaud Stadium "the best venue in the league. We're excited just to play there." ... The Blues-Ventura County game was moved to Fullerton College's Sherbeck Field, just around the corner from the Blues' offices and a hundred yards or so from the club's on-campus training field, from Riverside Community College's Norco College in part because of the trip to Orlando and Charleston. The team meets at the airport Wednesday morning at 6:15. “I want the guys to get out of [Fullerton after the game] quick, get them home, get some rest. The more sleep they can get, the better.” Kickoff is 5 p.m. ... A Blues-Chivas game would be played a week from Tuesday at Cal State Fullerton. No site has been determined if it's Chivas against the Fusion. ... If Cal FC beats Wilmington, its game at Portland will be a week from Wednesday, one day after the other third-round games. ... Cal FC's Danny Barrera, a former UC Santa Barbara star from Thousand Oaks, was selected U.S. Open Cup Player of the Round for the first round by TheCup.us, the tournament's primary online presence. He scored twice in a 3-1 victory at reigning PDL champ Kitsap Pumas.