L.A. BLUES: Another defeat; Dike departing
FULLERTON -- Charlie Naimo has never been one to hide his emotions, but after his L.A. Blues hit bottom Sunday evening, dropping their fifth in a row with a 4-0 debacle against Orlando City SC, he made it clear that he's ready to dump some of the more useless players under his command.
The Blues' head coach/general manager railed against his team's penchant for costly errors, its na´vete, lack of “mental strength” and shortage of “resourceful guys,” and said if all USL Pro contracts weren't guaranteed, “I would cut so many guys from this team right now. ... Do you think I'd keep some of these guys around here? You kidding me?”
The Blues (5-8-2) were done after conceding two goals to Dennis Chin in first 17 minutes, both following turnovers, then gave up two more near the end, to Jean Alexandre in the 70th and Matt Luzunaris in the 78th minutes, Alexandre's also after a giveaway in the back.
“It's beyond frustrating to me at this point. The bottom line is we make too many mistakes right now,” Naimo told ESPN Los Angeles. “Nobody scores a hard-earned goal against us. It's always a gift. I don't know, I don't have any answers. It's my fault. I picked the team. I'm the one who signed some of these guys that are allowing these things to happen, so, whatever. It's on me.”
The Blues have in a week and a half fallen from fifth to eighth in the third-division league, and they haven't scored in their last three games, including back-to-back losses at Cal State Fullerton to first-place Orlando City (12-1-4), the defending champion.
They were without striker Bright Dike, who has six goals in 10 games after arriving on loan from Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers but tweaked a hamstring in Friday's loss.
Dike might be done with the Blues; he's set to return to the Timbers early this week, but what exactly that means is uncertain.
“He's supposed to go back tomorrow,” Naimo said. “It could be for good, we don't know. We discussed about him going back [to Portland] short-term, coming back [to qualify before] out roster freeze” date in two weeks. “We're working pretty well with Portland right now. I'm sure we'll get another player or two [from them].”
They're getting another defender Monday, with Josh Suggs, who played for the Blues last year and has been with MLS's San Jose Earthquakes this season, arriving on a free transfer. Suggs “is going to give us another winner, winning mentality, good athlete. Helps you in a game like that. I would have played him [rather than Corey Miller] at left center back today, and I promise you the first two goals don't get scored.”
Miller, who was impressive in central defense after joining the Blues a couple weeks into the season, hasn't looked good the past couple of weeks, and he struggled against the Lions' speedy attackers Sunday. Also faring poorly is former UC Irvine playmaker Irving Garcia, who hasn't done enough on attack to make up for his defensive liabilities. He's played more than a half just twice since going the full 90 in the first three games, and Naimo pulled him at halftime Sunday.
They're not the only guys Naimo isn't particularly pleased with at the moment. He's tired of seeing players attempt “high-risk, low-reward” balls into pressure for teammates who are “flat-out not good enough to receive balls in high pressure,” the kind of mistakes that led to Orlando's first three goals.
“So na´ve, some of the decisions, and you get punished for it against a team like Orlando,” he said. “Bottom line: We got everything we deserved. And now who knows what's going to happen with this season. You try to be positive, but there's very little to be positive about.”
Even with contracts guaranteed, Naimo says he's ready to make moves to “add a couple players who help us win. Whatever it takes, buying guys out of their contract -- whatever it takes. Ali [Mansouri, the Blues' owner] is willing to do what's needed to make this better. All you need is 13 players who are good enough and getting into the playoffs. We have a lot of opportunity left. There's 27 points [across nine games] on the table for us. We're not out of it by any means. We can still get into the playoffs.
“Doesn't mean I'm happy with our team. ... I'm so tired of excuses and this and that. You give the ball away? [Or] you keep the ball? Do you defend well? [Or] do guys beat you? Do you make it back on defense? Answer the question. Look at yourself in the mirror. Don't just walk around thinking you're a good player, evaluate yourself. These guys don't do that. They think because they make one little flick that they had a good game. It's frigging white-collar wussy stuff. That's hurting this team right now. Not enough guys who get it.
"You've got Allan [Russell in midfield] and Erlys [Garcia on the backline], who will make the hard tackle, the smart thing we need to slow the game down and let the other team know we're actually playing. The rest of them pussyfoot around the game, right? Running around like na´ve little children.”
WORTH NOTING: The Blues have given up on bringing in veteran Iranian defender Rahman Rezaei, whose transfer has been caught for months in bureaucratic channels. ... Captain Ricky Waddell, hurt on last week's East Coast swing, is expected to miss three to four weeks with an MCL sprain. Center back Ebrima Jatta also is sidelined by an injury, but defender Matt Hall returned from a leg injury to make his first appearance since the mid-April opener. ... Rodrigo Lopez made his first start for Orlando City joining last week from the Ventura County Fusion, and he nearly set up the Lions' third goal with a stoppage-time feed to Chin. Erlys Garcia slid in to knock the ball away. ... The Blues face last-place Antigua Barracuda Thursday in Saturday in Bradenton, Fla. They have a trip two weeks later to Rochester. Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, then wrap the regular season with two-game home sets against Antigua (Aug. 9 and 11) and Harrisburg (Aug. 17 and 19). ... The Blues are three points behind sixth-place Charlotte and seventh-place Richmond, six behind fifth-place Harrisburg and three in front of ninth-place Pittsburgh. The top six teams make the playoffs. ... Pali Blues (12-0-1), the Blues' sister club, beat Colorado Rush, 2-0, to clinch the W-League's Western Conference regular-season title in the first game of the doubleheader. About two-thirds of the attendance was for that game and the Olympic send-off for U.S. women's national team star Abby Wambach that followed.
Titan Stadium, Cal State Fullerton
L.A. Blues 0, Orlando City SC 4
OC -- Dennis Chin (Jamie Watson) 7
OC -- Dennis Chin (Jean Alexandre) 17
OC -- Jean Alexandre (Kevin Molino) 70
OC -- Matt Luzunaris (Jamie Watson) 78
L.A. Blues: Jose Miranda; Bryan Burke, Erlys Garcia (Brian Farber, 77), Corey Miller, Shay Spitz; Allan Russell (Chad Bond, 82), Carlos Borja (Ladislas Bushiri, 82); Israel Sesay, Irving Garcia (Cheun-Yung Park, 46), George Davis IV (Matt Hall, 46); Matt Fondy. Unused subs: Amir Abedzadeh, Maykel Galindo.
Orlando City SC: Miguel Gallardo; Erik Ustruck, Kyle Davies, Kieran Bernard, Luke Boden; Ian Fuller (James O'Connor, 73); Kevin Molino (Charlie Campbell, 71), Rodrigo Lopez (Justin Clark, 83), Jean Alexandre (Adama Mbengue, 70), Jamie Watson; Dennis Chin (Matt Luzunaris, 68). Unused subs: Sean Kelley, Jerome Mechack.
Yellow cards: Boden 76, Luzunaris 86.
Referee: Jesse Yzaguirre. Att.: c. 600.
Records: L.A. Blues 5-8-2, 17 points; Orlando City 12-1-4, 40 points.