Los Angeles Soccer: Adrian Avila
Five weeks in and things are starting to fall into place in the Premier Development League's Southwest Division, and that's with one side yet to open its season.
Longtime powers Orange County Blue Star and Ventura County Fusion took big steps forward, both them shaking off slow starts to their seasons with a pair of impressive victories.
Blue Star (2-0-3) clobbered first-place Fresno Fuego, 3-1, in the Central Valley, rolling to a three-goal lead through two Andrew Riemer goals and another by Adrian Avila, then headed home to handle the Ogden Outlaws, also by a 3-1 tally. Nico Olsak scored and assisted goals in that one.
Orange County, one of two unbeaten teams in the Southwest Division, climbed within a point of the Fuego (5-1-1), who are in Florida for a U.S. Open Cup second-round match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers from the second-tier North American Soccer League. The other unbeaten: BYU Cougars, who open their season this weekend.
The Fusion (2-1-1), coming off a U.S. Open Cup victory over the NPSL's Fullerton Rangers (and in advance of Tuesday's Open Cup second-rounder against the L.A. Blues) posted shutouts over the Ogden Outlaws (2-0) and Pali Blues (3-0), both second-tier sides at best within the division.
Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller and UCLA) scored in both games for the third-place Fusion. Francisco Lopez played a role in all three goals against Pali.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
All-Premier Development League defender Dillon Barna and consistent PDL scorer Tyler Reinhart are among 102 players participating at the United Soccer Leagues' player combine this weekend in Bradenton, Fla.
The USL Pro Combine, designed to unearth players for the Tampa-based organization's top league, includes scouts from Major League Soccer and other professional clubs.
Barna (Westmont College), a 6-foot-4 center back, was a standout last season for the PDL's Ventura County Fusion. Reinhart (Cal Poly Pomona) was key for Southwest Division champion Fresno Fuego's attack.
The third local player is midfielder Adrian Avila, from MiraCosta College in Oceanside. He played for the Orange County Blue Star.
The USL Pro, a third-division league, includes the L.A. Blues, who play their home games at Cal State Fullerton.
Hollywood United FC has piled up 23 goals in its past four games, setting scoring standards that could make the Hitmen the class of the National Premier Soccer League's Western Division.
Only San Diego Flash -- not nearly as flashy but just as successful, perhaps more, than HUFC -- seems to stand between the revered L.A. side and the division title.
Hollywood United improved to 5-1-0 last weekend with a 5-3 romp over San Diego Boca as Cuban forward Jose Miranda netted a hat trick, the club's second in as many matches. Former Chivas USA winger Brent Whitfield (Long Beach/Poly HS and Cal State Fullerton) scored three in the 11-0 destruction of Real San Jose eight days earlier.
Rene Corona (Corona/Centennial HS and Santa Ana College) also tallied twice as HUFC remained ahead of the Flash (5-0-0) on goal difference -- it's plus-19 to plus-9 -- and impressive wins. HUFC crushed both of the divisions Northern California powers on a mid-April trek north; the Flash beat the Sonoma County Sol, 1-0, in San Diego last weekend.
The victory that matters most was the Flash's over HUFC, which took a first-half lead through Miranda but surrendered two second-half goals in a 3-1 decision.
Elsewhere in the NPSL:
- Santa Ana Winds (3-1-0) ran their winning streak to three games, beating Rattlers FC, 3-0, in Palmdale as Diego Turoldo (Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills) scored his third and fourth goals and Mike Piechota (Cal State Dominguez Hills) added a goal and an assist. The teams meet again Saturday in Santa Ana.
- Omar De La Piedra (L.A. Mission College) scored a big goal for the second straight week, lifting Thousand Oaks' FC Hasental (1-3-1) to a 2-2 draw with visiting Bay Area Ambassadors. Johnny Gonzalez netted his third goal for Los Conejos.
PREMIER DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE: UCLA sophomore Chandler Hoffman scored twice and assisted San Diego County high-schooler Adrian Avila's goal as Orange County Blue Star opened its Premier Development League campaign with a 4-0 romp over the L.A. Legends.