Los Angeles Soccer: Carlos Carrillo
Hollywood United FC has a storied past, featuring more big names than the Galaxy could hope to sign -- movie stars, musicians and former footballers -- but it's reaching its greatest heights as a competitive club rather than a novelty act.
The Hitmen (13-2-1) are in Madison, Ala., this week for the National Premier Soccer League's final four, just 180 minutes from their first national title. They meet the Milwaukee Bavarians (8-2-2) in the first semifinal Thursday, and the winner takes on the Erie Admirals (11-1-1) or Jacksonville United (6-4-0) in Saturday's final.
Here's a quick take on Hollywood United:
ORIGINS: God save the queen, indeed! Former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook were behind HUFC's formation in the late 1980s, spurred by an English ex-pat community of actors and musicians that gathered regularly at The Cat & the Fiddle, the Sunset Boulevard pub.
STAR POWER: HUFC played for years in L.A.-area amateur leagues, but it made its name in charity matches and exhibitions, bringing teams loaded with Hollywood vets and former soccer stars.
Anthony La Paglia, a fine goalkeeper in his youth, has supported the club financially and on the field, and others in red and black include actors Gilles Marini, Jimmy Jean-Louis and Donal Logue, musicians Ian Astbury, Robbie Williams, Ziggy Marley, director Danny Cannon and lots of big-name players, from Franck Leboeuf, a defender for France's 1998 World Cup championship team, to Scottish great Richard Gough to notorious English Premier League hard man-turned-Hollywood tough guy Vinnie Jones to American soccer Hall of Famers Eric Wynalda, Alexi Lalas and John Harkes.
Hollywood United's move to the National Premier Soccer League has been successful if perhaps a mite or two too easy.
The Hitmen (10-0-1), bolstered by new signing Carlos Carrillo (from Salvadoran power Isidro Metapan) and the return of Nick Blanco (from ousted USL Pro side Puerto Rico United), clinched the Northwest Division title last weekend with a 4-1 drilling of the Sonoma County Sol. Blanco scored, and Jose Miranda netted his league-best 10th goal of the campaign.
That gives HUFC a 13-point lead on reigning league champ Sacramento Gold (5-3-3) with three regular-season games to go. The competition was surely better in the USL Premier Development League; the Hitmen are averaging four goals per game in the lower-cost NPSL and have won four games by at least four goals and two more by three.
The Southwest Division race tightened with one very unexpected result: San Diego Boca 3, San Diego Flash 2.
The Flash (7-3-0) came in perfect on the field (they forfeited two victories, one over Hollywood United, for using an ineligible player), and they rallied from a two-goal deficit on Larry Emeanua's eighth and ninth goals, the equalizer on a bicycle kick three minutes into stoppage. Boca (5-5-1) prevailed on Juan Perez's strike with virtually the final touch of the game.
That leaves the Flash and the Santa Ana Winds (7-3-0) even on points with four games to play and set to meet Sunday in San Diego. The Winds were clobbered, 4-0, in the first meeting June 4, and they dropped another last weekend against Sacramento.
More on local clubs and players:
PDL: Big weeks for UCLA's Chandler Hoffman and Fernando Monge with Orange County Blue Star and La Caņada Flintridge's Ryan Shaw with Southern California Seahorses.