Los Angeles Soccer: Carlos Morales

Hollywood United wins NPSL semi

July, 10, 2011

Tony Flores/Hollywood United FC
Hollywood United's Arturo Albarran shoots past Santa Ana's Andre Turoldo during Saturday's Western Conference semifinal.

Hollywood United FC took advantage of an early red card and cruised past the Santa Ana Winds in a National Premier Soccer League playoff opener Saturday night in Los Angeles.

What was happening 100 or so miles to the south might have meant more to the Hitmen's championship hopes.

HUFC's 3-1 victory at Crenshaw High School, on goals from Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Bentil, former Chivas USA winger Brent Whitfield (Long Beach/Poly HS and Cal State Fullerton) and Nick Blanco (Loyola Marymount), sends it to the Western Conference final next Saturday against the Sacramento Gold, which stunned the San Diego Flash -- the best in the West -- in the other conference semifinal.

The winner will advance to the league final four in Alabama at the end of the month.

Santa Ana played a man down from the 11th minute, after goalkeeper Carlos Alberto Hernandez was red-carded for handling the ball outside his box. The Hitmen took advantage right away, with Bentil scoring from Carlos Morales' corner kick in the 17th minute.

Whitfield headed home Arturo Albarran's cross in the 31st, and Blanco beat three defenders on a run from midfield for the third goal just five minutes into the second half. Greg Piechota (Cal State Dominguez Hills) tallied for the Winds (7-5-1) in the 35th minute.

Hollywood United (12-2-1) was the top seed for the Western final four but really were second-best. The Flash (10-4-1) had lost on the field just once this season -- it forfeited two games, including a 3-1 start-of-the-season triumph over the Hitmen, for using an ineligible player -- was coming off a 5-1 destruction of HUFC in the regular-season finale and were overwhelming favorites to represent the West in Alabama.

Sacramento (8-3-4), the defending NPSL champion, ousted San Diego, 2-1, to set up next week's clash at Crenshaw. Hollywood United won the first meeting this season with the Gold, 3-0, and the second was a 1-1 draw.

HUFC, which in the spring moved from the USL's Premier Development League to the NPSL, had reached the playoffs in both of its previous seasons but failed to advance.

U.S. OPEN CUP: Blues, Fusion move on

June, 14, 2011
The L.A. Blues dodged an early red card with the aid of a newcomer. The Ventura County Fusion overcame an early deficit and weathered several crises.

Both survived first-round encounters Tuesday night in the U.S. Open Cup to set up a showdown next week at Ventura College.

The Blues, down to nine men by the finish, held on to beat Hollywood United FC, 3-1, as Iranian wing-back Mehrshad Momeni scored goals each side of halftime at Riverside Community College's campus in Norco. The Fusion got goals from UCLA's Andy Rose, Mark Magee and UCLA's Reed Williams to overcome West-side amateurs Doxa Italia, 3-1, in Ventura.

The winner in next Tuesday's game will take on a Major League Soccer club -- almost certainly the Galaxy -- in a third-round clash June 28. The U.S. Open Cup is America's oldest and most prestigious cup competition, contested since 1914.

A quick look at the first round:

BLUES JOIN PRO MARCH: The Blues were among 10 teams from the third-tier USL Pro to advance, opening a two-goal lead after Leonard Griffin was sent off in the 19th minute and netting a third after Josh Tudela saw red in the 89th.

Momeni, who signed with the Blues before the season began but didn't arrive until recent weeks, scored in the 37th and 55th minutes. Carlos Morales halved the deficit in the 67th for HUFC -- he was red-carded in the 86th -- and Gerardo Bravo scored the finale for the Blues.

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