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Wednesday, April 6, 2011
L.A. BLUES: PDL team a possibility

By Scott French

The L.A. Blues, preparing for their debut next week in the new USL Pro league, is considering forming a second men's team that would replace Hollywood United FC in the Premier Development League.

A decision by the club, which also fields a women's team in the W-League -- all three leagues are administered by Tampa, Fla-based United Soccer Leagues -- will be made in the next few days, Blues head coach/vice president Charlie Naimo said Wednesday night.

"It looks like it's probably going to happen," Naimo said. "Right now, we haven't signed anything, but we're strongly considering it and talking to guys who might play for us [in the PDL]. We think it can be a good thing. It serves a need, and if we decide we can fit it in, if we do [the PDL team] as a pro team, we can move guys back and forth [between the two teams]."

The Blues' top team plays its first match in the third-tier USL Pro a week from Friday, and a second team could serve as a reserve side, enabling players seeing little time with the first team to see game action and helping to develop players for the big team.

Hollywood United, which has a long relationship with the Blues organization, last month pulled its pro team out of the PDL and joined the Galt, Calif.-based National Premier Soccer League, a rival national amateur/semipro outfit. The Blues, in theory, would step into HUFC's PDL schedule unveiled in February. Opening day would be April 29 at Fresno Fuego.

"We're cautiously optimistic it will happen soon," Naimo said. "There are definitely pros and cons, for sure."

The cons are economic -- it costs more money to field two pro teams than it does one -- and in spreading a thin front office even thinner. Naimo said the club would need operational assistance from the USL to put three teams on the field, but that ought not be a problem.

The Blues' women's side, the Pali Blues, have been very successful, winning W-League titles in their first two seasons and reaching the playoffs last year.

There are four L.A.-area PDL clubs: 2009 champion Ventura County Fusion, Orange County Fusion, L.A. Legends and La Mirada-based Southern California Seahorses. The PDL regular season ends July 24, three weeks before the USL Pro regular-season concludes.

NEW AND BLUE: The Blues have signed Jamaican midfielder Akeem Priestley, who is due to arrive Thursday in Southern California, Naimo said. Priestley played collegiate soccer at Connecticut, was selected by Kansas City in the 2005 Major League Soccer draft (but not offered a contract), has played six times for Jamaica's national team, and has spent the bulk of his pro career with Jamaican powerhouse Harbour View, going on loan last season to Ajerbaijani club FK Mughan.

USL PRO KICKOFF: USL Pro's season kicked off last weekend with two games, one of them -- River Plate Puerto Rico's 2-2 draw with visiting Sevilla FC Puerto Rico -- in the Blues' International Division. River Plate, associated with the Buenos Aires-based giant of the same name, twice rallied from deficits on goals by former MLS midfielder Petter Villegas and Yaikel Perez.

The Blues open their season a week from Friday at Sevilla, which is affiliated with the Spanish club.

Richmond Kickers topped Orlando City, 2-0, in the other game.

Four games are on the schedule this week, with Sevilla home against Puerto Rico United in the International Division.

WORTH NOTING: The Blues on Wednesday routed a team featuring players from state JC champion Mt. San Antonio College, scoring four first-half goals en route to a 4-1 triumph. Naimo said the Blues connected at least 15 passes 11 times in the first half and strung together 29 passes leading to its third goal. Three likely starters -- Argentine midfielder Walter Gaitan, Chivas USA loaner Chukwudi Chijindu and Iranian midfielder Sharyhar Dastan -- missed the game with minor injuries, and none are expected to play in scrimmages Saturday at UC Santa Barbara and Sunday against Chivas USA's reserves at Home Depot Center.