Los Angeles Soccer: Atlanta Silverbacks
The game of the year for minor league soccer around these parts produced an unexpected result amid huge momentum swings and left one Southern California club joyous and another heartbroken.Tyler Coombes' 14th goal of the season lifted FC Santa Clarita, a first-year club born from the ruins of the Lancaster-based Rattlers, past the previously unbeaten San Diego Flash to claim the second Southern Conference berth for the National Premier Soccer League's Western Division playoffs.
Coombes (Palmdale/Palmdale HS and Cal State L.A.) scored twice as the Storm (8-3-3) posted a 4-3 victory Sunday at Canyon High School in Canyon Country, rallying for the winning goal in the 89th minute after the Flash (11-1-2) overcame a three-goal deficit. Sergio Valle Ortiz's second goal of the evening pulled San Diego just a minute before Coombes provided the victory.
The goal was a must -- a draw would have given the No. 2 spot to the Fullerton Rangers (8-4-2), whose 4-0 rout of San Diego Boca in Santa Ana, fueled on goals by brothers Andre and Diego Turoldo (both Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills), wrapped up about an hour before Coombes struck.
Martin Galvan scored the first goal and assisted two more for the Storm, who were up, 3-0, when Alex Harlley (Rosamond/Rosamond HS) tallied three minutes into the second half.
Santa Clarita will visit Hayward-based Bay Area Ambassadors (9-4-1), the Northern Conference champion for Saturday's Western semifinals. The Flash are home against Sonoma County Sol (7-3-4) in the other semi, and the winners will meet next week for a spot in the NPSL final four.
Fullerton looked likeliest to finish second after beating Santa Clarita, 3-0, on June 24, but it fell to third after a 5-1 loss to the Flash a week later.
It also was a big week for another So Cal side: Pali Blues claimed the W-League's Western Conference title. Another, Beach FC, failed in its bid for the Pacific-South crown in the Women's Premier Soccer League.
The Ventura County Fusion, who are headed to the Premier Development League playoffs for the fourth straight year, can claim the Southwest Division championship Wednesday.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
Wynalda, a Hall of Fame striker from Westlake Village, replaces head coach Alex Piņeda Chacon and director of soccer Rodrigo Rios, but it's not a permanent move. Wynalda last week told ESPN Los Angeles that he is merely a careholder coach -- he will lead the search for a full-time boss -- but he figures to serve the Silverbacks (1-5-8) as an adviser moving forward.
Wynalda guided Cal FC to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup -- with a surprise victory over Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers included. He previously lobbied for head-coaching jobs with Chivas USA and Chicago.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for this opportunity with the Silverbacks. It was truly one that I didn’t want to pass up,” Wynalda, also an on-air analyst for Fox Soccer Channel's international coverage, said in a statement. “This is a case of an underperforming team, and I’m honored that the club chose me to take on the challenge of turning things around and helping the Silverbacks fulfill their potential on the field.”
Atlanta, which has played in whichever league served as America's second division all but two years since 1995, has made the playoffs only three times in 15 seasons. It went 4-20-4 last year and is winless at home (0-4-3) this season.
The Silverbacks play Tuesday against Carolina and Saturday at Minnesota. Wynalda will make his debut in a July 14 home game against the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
Ready for another Galaxy-Chivas USA showdown? If both clubs win their U.S. Open Cup openers next week, it will happen.
U.S. Soccer's fourth-round pairings are out, and the Galaxy and Chivas are set to meet June 5 at Home Depot Center, as long as both advance. Chivas faces Premier Development League power Ventura County Fusion in a third-round game Tuesday night at Ventura College, and the Galaxy meet the Carolina RailHawks, from the second-division North American Soccer League, in Cary, N.C.
If it's the Galaxy against the Fusion, it will be played at HDC. If Carolina beats L.A., the fourth-round game will be in Cary.
Major League Soccer clubs enter the country's oldest soccer competition -- the initial games were played in 1913 -- in the third round. Ventura County has won twice in overtime, ousting USL Pro side L.A. Blues on Tuesday evening, to advance to the final 32.
The Galaxy and Chivas have played once before in the Open Cup, with L.A. cruising to a 5-2 fourth-round victory at HDC's Track and Field Stadium en route to the 2005 title. Goal scorers for the Galaxy included Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez.
The pairing was expected. Rather than a blind draw, U.S. Soccer regionalizes pairings to cut down on travel costs.
Thousand Oaks' Cal FC, a U.S. Adult Soccer Association side coached by Eric Wynalda, would play three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders in Tukwila, Wash., if it beats the Portland Timbers in the third round. No site has been determined if Cal FC and the Atlanta Silverbacks, who meet the Sounders next week, both pull off upsets.
The Southwest Division failed to get a team to the Premier Development League final four for the second straight year, but four of 11 selections on the All-PDL team went to players from the division's top teams.
Three from the quartet are local: Ventura County Fusion midfielder Danny Barrerra (Thousand Oaks/Westlake HS and UC Santa Barbara) and defender Dillon Barna (Westmont College), and Orange County Blue Star forward Chandler Hoffman (UCLA). Fresno Fuego forward Milton Blanco, the national semipro/amateur league's MVP favorite, also is listed.
The Fusion and Fuego were ousted during the Western Conference final four last weekend in Fresno, both dropping their first games of the season to the Kitsap Pumas, from Bremerton, Wash.
The Pumas pulled out two 1-0 wins, beating Fresno in the final as Daniel Scott -- an All-PDL pick at defender -- scored in the 90th minute of the final against Fresno and goalkeeper Bryan Meredith stopped Blanco's penalty kick in stoppage.
Also chosen to the All-PDL team were Thunder Bay defender Wilson Rodrigues Neto, Michigan Bucks goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt and defender Stewart Givens, Central Florida Kraze midfielder Jonathan Mendoza, Des Moines (Iowa) Menace midfielder John Sosa, and Westchester (N.Y.) Flames forward Jake Keegan.