FULLERTON, Calif. -- It's not Walter Gaitan's departure that's given the L.A. Blues the blues, but it hasn't helped. The Argentine playmaker with Mexican top-tier experience was nowhere near Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium on Sunday, and head coach Charlie Naimo isn't sure where to find him.
Gaitan, Blues officials acknowledged, left the club about two weeks ago, and nothing's been heard since. Without him, L.A. has won two U.S. Open Cup matches -- it meets the Galaxy in a third-round clash Tuesday night at Fullerton -- and suffered through a disappointing weekend against USL Pro league rival Harrisburg.
The City Islanders vaulted past the Blues and into second place in the National Division with a 2-1 triumph Sunday afternoon that followed a 1-1 draw Friday in Corona. That leaves L.A. (5-3-3) in third place, six points behind first-place Rochester (7-4-3) and three behind Harrisburg (6-4-3). The Blues, of course, have games in hand on both.
Naimo started a makeshift lineup, holding out a few regulars for Tuesday's game, and said afterward he was pleased with most everything but not with his side's ability to finish.
"The mentality's not right on some of these guys," he said. "You get in position to shoot, shoot. And then you give up a crap goal against the run of play and you're chasing the game, and then you come our at halftime, out of the locker room, with no ambition.
"I'm extremely disappointed in our team. I can't say anything less."
Adriano de Lima, brought up from the Blues' reserve team, hit the crossbar just as first-half stoppage began, and had the shot been six inches lower, it might have been a different game.
But Sainey Touray scored seconds later for Harrisburg and, Andrew Welker's deflected shot in the 64th minute made it 2-0. Former Galaxy winger Israel Sesay tallied for the Blues in the 82nd minute; forward Cesar Rivera was red-carded in the 88th.
"I feel bad for the guys that bring the right mentality into the game and really care enough about the win to do what it takes to win," Naimo said. "And you give guys opportunities to play themselves onto the park, and they don't take advantage of it. ... When they're sitting on the bench, they don't need to ask why. I can't look at any player and say, wow, that players bringing it or leaving it [on the field], and that's a problem."
Gaitan isn't bringing anything. Apparently, he wants more money.
"He is in his mind what he thinks he's worth, and he's entitled to that," said Naimo, who added he's had no contract with the midfielder. "But we have a contract, and he wants to choose not to play, that's his thing. But we hold his rights, and if he's going to play anywhere between now and September, it's going to be here. ... If he wants tom play on a team, he's going to be here."