Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Blues bringing pro soccer to O.C.
By Scott French
L.A.'s already got the Galaxy and Chivas USA. Here comes a third professional men's team, set to begin play next year, likely at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium.
Blue Star LLC, which had a stake in the late L.A. Sol, will announce next month formation of a club to play in the United Soccer Leagues' First Division, the second tier of American pro soccer. The enterprise was confirmed by Charlie Naimo, the group's technical director -- and possibly (probably?) the club's soon-to-be head coach.
"We're still working on a couple final things before [announcing]," Naimo, who attended last week's USL annual general meeting in Florida, said Wednesday. "I think we're shooting [to have] everything in line in a couple of weeks. We want to announce this for real, that we've got a team, this is our first player, this is where we'll play, who coach is. We want it to be complete."
Blue Star, which is run by husband-and-wife team Ali and Maryam Mansour and has a connection with Australian actor Anthony La Paglia and Hollywood United FC, operates the Pali Blues women's club (which plays in the USL's W-League) and was co-owner with Anschutz Entertainment Group of the Sol, which posted the best regular-season record in Women's Professional Soccer's inaugural season and folded earlier this year after AEG pulled out.
The organization is awaiting USL approval of the L.A. Blues name -- the name used by its former team in the USL's semiprofessional Premier Development League -- and is working to reach an agreement to use the 10,000-seat stadium in Fullerton.
"It's certainly one of the venues we're very keen on, and it's a strong possibility we'll get a deal done," Naimo said. "It's the best stadium in the area for anything other than MLS."
Naimo, who was the Sol's general manager, is head coach and president of operations for the Pali Blues -- he guided the team to W-League titles in 2008 and 2009, its first two seasons -- and a consultant for the Chicago Red Stars, a WPS club facing a Dec. 15 deadline to attract funding for the 2011 season.
Asked if he's be the USL1 club's head coach, Naimo said: "I'm very intrigued. ... I love that part of the game, and I'm considering stepping into the ring. Right now I'm [working on] getting players, signing a couple players, technical stuff. Nothing's for certain yet. I want to be 100 percent sure of everything we're doing before I make that decision."
He said he'd likely remain Pali's head coach and continue working with the Red Stars.
Ali Mansour has been pursuing a USL1 franchise for the past few years. The new club would be the first at the second-division level in Southern California since the L.A. Salsa, which existed in 1993-95.
The Salsa, whose roster included U.S. national-teamers Paul Caligiuri, Hugo Perez and Jeff Agoos and employed current Galaxy goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer in the nets, played in USL1 predecessor A-League at Cal State Fullerton, then made a failed attempt to join Mexico's second division, playing an abbreviated schedule at East L.A. College before folding.
Rildo Menezes, who played for Brazil in the 1966 World Cup, was the club's first head coach, succeeded by 1970s U.S. soccer icon Rick Davis, the club's general manager. Montebello ophthalmologist William de la Peņa owned the club.