Los Angeles Soccer: FC Hasental
Now he's back with the Sounders, taking the next step in his journey to being a full-fledged professional.
Steres (Calabasas/Calabasas HS), who starred at San Diego State, was taken by Seattle in last week's college-waiver draft and headed over the weekend to Washington.
“We're getting the contract [sorted out], and then working my way up to get a starting role, obviously,” Steres told ESPN Los Angeles after the Fusion's 2-1 victory Friday evening over Orange County Blue Star. “Sounds like they're excited to have me come in. I'm excited to go in.”
Steres, probably a center back or right back in MLS, lost out in numbers games during preseason at Chivas and, after his release by the Goats, in Seattle. He's been superb for the Fusion, bolstering the backline next to Mickey Daly (Cal State L.A.) or Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS and UC Santa Barbara) or teaming with former Chivas USA/Portland Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez (Santa Barbara/Santa Barbara HS) in central midfield.
The Fusion (6-1-1) are atop the Southwest Division after rallying for a 2-1 win against Blue Star at Concordia University. Travis Bowen (Van Nuys/Chatsworth HS), the older brother of Chivas USA forward Tristan Bowen, scored both goals -- his fourth and division-best fifth of the season -- with the winner coming in the 76th minute.
Ventura is one point ahead of FC Tucson, which visits the Fusion next weekend.
Pontius, the younger brother of D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius, also is getting some MLS attention. The big center back, a Sounders draft pick, has been in camp the past week with the Galaxy. He says playing with the Fusion has helped prepare him.
“College is one thing,” he said. “College prepares you for the next step. This is kind of the in-between phase between college and pros. You've got a lot of players here who can make the next step.”
He said his time with Sounders in preseason was “spectacular.”
“Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me, but at the end, I gained a lot of experience out of that opportunity,” Pontius said. “Spots were tight there, so there's only so much you can do. You play your game, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You try the next one.”
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
Tyler Coombes (Palmdale/Palmdale HS and Cal State L.A.) and Alex Harlley (Rosamond/Rosamond HS) scored early goals, and the Storm (2-0-1) -- revitalized by a new coach (Jose Meza) and lots of new talent -- pulled out a 2-0 victory over the weekend to vault over the Rangers (2-1-0) and to the top the Southern Conference standings in the National Premier Soccer League's Western Division.
Coombes, coming off a five-goal, NPSL player-of-the-week performance in a 9-1 rout of Phoenix a week earlier, tallied in the third minute, heading home Stephen Martines' corner kick. Harlley, a Togo-born forward who scored 45 goals as a senior this season at Rosamond High School, first-timed from 22 yards a Matt Shaxton cross in the 27th.
Santa Clarita leads the San Diego Flash (2-0-1) on goal difference.
Thousand Oaks' FC Hasental claimed its first victory, winning, 2-1, at San Diego Boca on goals by Robert Pate (Chatsworth/Chatsworth HS and Cal State Northridge) and Omar de la Piedra (L.A. Mission College). The Conejos' home opener, at Cal Lutheran's Rolland Stadium, is Saturday night against Santa Clarita.
The Bay Area Ambassadors play Sunday for a U.S. Open Cup berth against Stanislaus United Turlock Express, which beat Paso Robles' Naples FC, 5-2, in the U.S. Club Soccer qualifying final.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
PREMIER DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE: Paul Islas scored twice late in the first half as defending Southwest Division champ Fresno Fuego opened the PDL season with a 4-1 win over L.A. Misioneros.
Cesar Rivera, the L.A. Blues' top scorer last year, netted the lone goal for the L.A. side, which, a club official said, includes former Chivas USA midfielder Gerson Mayen and former Galaxy defender Mike Randolph, although neither featured in the Central Valley. The return game is Sunday at Carver Middle School in Los Angeles.
The next hour was an onslaught, with the Storm -- formerly Rattlers FC in the Antelope Valley -- scoring nine goals, five of them before halftime, en route to a simple triumph Saturday in the West Division's Southern Conference.
Tyler Coombes (Palmdale/Palmdale HS and Cal State L.A.) was chosen the NPSL's national player of the week after scoring five goals. He had a hat trick by the 43rd minute.
He netted one goal more than Jason Jones in Northern Conference leader Sacramento Gold's 9-0 destruction of the San Francisco Stompers the following day.
FCSC (1-0-1) is second in the NPSL West-Southern, two points behind the Fullerton Rangers (2-0-0), who notched their second shutout victory as Eder Roldan and David Arvizu scored second-half goals to beat visiting FC Hasental, 2-0, on Sunday. Hasental, from the Conejo Valley, has been shut out in each of its first two games.
A winning debut.
The Rangers, who last year made the NPSL playoffs as the Santa Ana Winds and already posted three wins in qualifying en route to a berth in the U.S. Open Cup, received late goals from Julio Madrigal (Inglewood/Inglewood HS and L.A. Harbor College/Cal State Dominguez Hills) and Carlos Godinez to pull away to a 3-0 victory at debutant Phoenix Monsoon.
Madrigal also assisted Cuban forward Eder Roldan's 15th-minute opener for Fullerton, which is second in the Southern Conference, behind San Diego Flash, which routed Thousand Oaks' FC Hasental, 4-0, as Brandon Zuniga scored a hat trick.
So Cal's other new NPSL team, FC Santa Clarita Storm -- formerly Antelope Valley-based Rattlers FC -- settled for a 2-2 draw at San Diego Boca in its first game. Steven Martines set up Alex Harlley (Rosamond/Rosamond HS) and then added one of his own to give FCSC a two-goal lead by the 32nd minute, but NPSL Player of the Week Juan Bernal conveted a 65th-minute penalty and netted an equalizer 15 minutes later.
It's not as drastic as it seems.
Thousand Oaks' FC Hasental returns, and so do two other L.A.-area sides, although in new forms. The Santa Ana Winds' NPSL side is now affiliated with the Fullerton Rangers and the Antelope Valley's Rattlers FC have moved down Highway 14 to become FC Santa Clarita, associated with women's power Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
The big news is who isn't back. Hollywood United FC, which reached the NPSL's title game after battling the area's best semipro/amateur clubs in the rival Premier Development League, is gone … and without a trace.
Word, according to several sources within the NPSL, is that money issues are behind HUFC's demise, that owner Anthony LaPaglia, the Australian actor who starred for seven seasons in CBS drama “Without a Trace,” has withdrawn support.
General manager Jason Mathot and head coach Jose Botello did not respond to interview requests, and several figures affiliated with the greater club -- best-known for its celebrity side, which featured LaPaglia, other actors, rock stars and former pros -- said they didn't know what was going on.
Count NPSL Commissioner Dan Trainor among that group, too.
“We couldn't contact them and don't know [what happened],” Trainor said. “It concerns us when a team can't survive.”
That leaves the San Diego Flash, coached by Fox Soccer analyst (and former English pro) Warren Barton, the big name in the 12-team Western Division. The Flash employ a direct style that led to an 12-2-1 on-field record and the West's South Flight title last year; they'll expect challenges by Fullerton Rangers, Hasental and archrival San Diego Boca.
The Rangers, a longtime youth club that joined the fourth-division National Premier Soccer League this season, take on NPSL Western Division rival San Diego Boca at Balboa Stadium at 7 p.m.
Fullerton rallied for a 2-1 victory Tuesday over Thousand Oaks' FC Hasental in an NPSL Open Cup qualifying semifinal on goals by Cal State Dominguez Hills' Andre Turoldo (Torrance/North Torrance HS) and former CSUDH standout Julio Madrigal (Inglewood/Inglewood HS and L.A. Harbor College). Boca upset archrival San Diego Flash, 1-0, in overtime in the other semifinal.
The NPSL has 6.5 berths in the 64-team field and enters the competition in the first round, scheduled for May 15. Clubs from the second-tier North American Soccer League and third-tier USL Pro begin with second-round games May 22, and MLS clubs enter in the third round May 29.
This is the 99th year of the tournament.
Local teams in this year's field (all qualified automatically):
Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
Chivas USA (MLS)
Los Angeles Blues (USL Pro)
Ventura County Fusion (USL Premier Development League)
CARSON -- Blair Gavin hopes he has turned a corner on a longstanding hamstring problem after missing a good deal of preseason and Chivas USA's first three Major League Soccer games this year.
He played the second half in an unannounced friendly Thursday against Thousand Oaks-based fourth-division club FC Hasental, converting a penalty kick in a 5-0 victory at Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.
“I'm getting there,” said Gavin, a third-year midfielder with exceptional skill and ideas who has battled hamstring injuries since his rookie year with the Goats. “It's a process, as usual with most injuries, but it's coming along, getting better. It's going in the right direction.”
Gavin could be available for Sunday's game vs. early Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City at Home Depot Center, but likelier will be in coach Robin Fraser's plans for Monday's MLS Reserve League opener against the Galaxy. He's been out since mid-February and missed eight games before getting a few minutes in the March 18 friendly against UC Riverside. Thursday's game was just his fifth game appearance this year for the Goats.
The constant injuries are trying, but Gavin says he's encouraged by his progress and how strategies developed by the training staff, to deal with physiological issues, has helped him.
“I love soccer, so [rehabbing injuries] is the things you've got to do,” he said. “Unfortunately, I've been injured for a long time, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I do the right things so it it will prevent it from happening, but if it happens, then so be it, and I've got to work at it.”
Fraser said the club has been “very mindful of Blair and his history in his recovery” as it works to “do everything we can to eliminate this happening again.”
Gavin was happy to be in a game situation, but he acknowledged a “lot of stray touches that can be better. Just got to get my sharpness back. That comes with games, comes with practices. When you're off for four or five weeks, your touch isn't exactly where you want it to be.”
Fraser praised Gavin's “good ideas, good decisions when to keep it, when to push the pace a little bit” and noted that “when he's healthy, he puts himself into [lineup] contention right away.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Victor Manuel Chavez, one of the four Mexican youngsters in camp from the Sensifut academy in Torreon, scored twice in the victory, and Gerardo Daniel Torres also saw action.
CARSON -- Chivas USA's second preseason match was a little bit like the first, in that there were some very fine things to be seen across midfield. That's good news -- it's the area of the field the Goats amassed so much depth over the offseason.
Newcomer Ryan Smith and fourth-year veteran Michael Lahoud looked very sharp on the wings and Peter Vagenas paired well in the middle with debutant Oswaldo Minda as Chivas romped to a 5-0 triumph Friday at Home Depot Center over FC Hasental, a Thousand Oaks club that plays in the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League.
Lahoud and Smith scored first-half goals, Juan Pablo Angel converted a penalty kick, Chris Cortez added a second-half goal, and trialist Cesar Romero -- a very interesting prospect -- netted at the finish to push the Goats to 1-1-0, whatever that's worth.
“It’s one of those things where we’re looking at specific things: how we move as a unit, our thoughts attacking-wise, and it’s great to see for a group of guys that is basically playing together for the first time, that they had a number of good ideas,” said head coach Robin Fraser, who started used a 4-2-3-1 alignment in the first half, just as he did in last week's wind-blown hour exercise against the Ventura County Fusion. “Cohesion was decent, and it’ll get better, but at the end of it, as we’re trying to get results going forward, it’s important.”
Smith, an Englishman whose rights were acquired from Sporting Kansas City the day after the MLS Cup final, is a speedy attacking presence on the left flank. Lahoud is prospering in his best position after spending most of last season at right back.
“Both players, they're taking steps forward and working on fitness, but one of the keys for us is going to be how dangerous our wide players are,” Fraser said. “Both guys showed the ability to be dangerous today, and it's good that we keep moving in that direction where things seem to be getting better.”
Minda slid in next to Vagenas at the base of the five-man midfield and showed he can be commanding, even if he's not match-fit yet.
“He's very solid, he's got a lot of good ideas before he gets the ball, his first touch is clean,” Fraser said. “He covers ground, he covers ground, he covers ground. He’s a guy who is very experienced and very professional player. He brings a lot to us.”
So might Romero, a former U.S. under-18 national-teamer from Chula Vista who has played in Mexico's (with Murcielagos FC) and Germany's (with TSG Thannhausen) lower divisions and is tearing up the Premier Arena Soccer League (local entrants: Anaheim Bolts) -- with 33 goals in seven games, including two nine-goal games, for the Tijuana Revolucion.
Lopes, signed on a free transfer from Romania's Universitatea Craiova, also scored in the match on Chivas' training field, heading home a cross from fellow newcomer Laurent Courtois in the 28th minute to push the Goats ahead en route to a 3-2 victory over the National Premier Soccer League side from Thousand Oaks.
The transfer window closes Friday, and general manager Jose Domene said all ITCs must in place by then.
Courtois, signed from French second-division side Grenoble, has his, and he debuted in Chivas' victory Saturday at New England. The Goats also hope to bring in an “attacking” player by Friday; head coach Robin Fraser said he thought things would be clearer Thursday on a potential acquisition.
The 6-foot-3 Lopes, 29, is still working on fitness, but he was a steady hand in the first half and says that “little by little I'll fall into that rhythm, and things will be what they have to be.”
Scoring a goal was a bonus.
“Scoring goals is the maximum thing,” he said. “It doesn't matter whether it's an official game or a friendly, scoring a goal is scoring a goal.”
“He's composed, he's a good passer, he's tactically very strong,” Fraser said. “He's comfortable giving information. ... Hes a big man who's comfortable in his role. You can see hes played in some good sit, and he just looks comfortable.”
The Seahorses (3-2-0) are coming off back-to-back Premier Development League wins over longtime power Orange County Blues Star, winning 2-0 last week in Irvine and 2-1 on Wednesday night in La Mirada. Ryan Shaw (La Caņada Flintridge/St. Francis HS) scored three goals -- giving him five in five games -- in the victories.
Now the club, part of a Christian organization that includes the USL Pro league's Charlotte Eagles, looks to bounce back from the 4-0 home loss last weekend to Southwest Division leader Ventura County Fusion (5-0-2). They meet Sunday evening at Ventura College.
The Blue Heat (2-0-1) last week played two-time W-League champ Pali Blues to a scoreless draw, then destroyed archrival L.A. Strikers, 7-2, after scoring three goals -- by Hannah Beard, Portuguese star Edite Fernandes and Cal State Fullerton's Ann Marie Tangorra (Arcadia/Arcadia HS and Cal State L.A.) -- in the first 25 minutes.
Santa Clarita returns home, The Master's College on this occasion, to take on reigning Western Conference champ Vancouver Whitecaps (3-0-1), who have conceded just one goal this season.
More on local clubs and players:
With Hollywood United departing for a rival league, the Ventura County Fusion might have figured they were in a two-team battle for the Premier Development League's Southwest Division title this year.
They would have been correct.
Only the other team isn't Orange County Blue Star.
The Fusion made that clear Friday night with a 7-2 pasting at Ventura College, running their record to 4-0-1. That's only worth second place -- Fresno Fuego, apparently their chief competition, is a point better, at 4-0-2.
The teams drew, 0-0, May 1 in Ventura and meet again June 11 in Fresno.
They're in another battle this week, for the division's berth in the U.S. Open Cup. Fresno won all four of its qualifying matches, and the Fusion is 3-0-0 heading into Saturday's PDL match against the Southern California Seahorses at La Mirada High School. Ventura County will advance if it wins by two or more goals or by one goal while scoring at least three. A 2-1 win forces a coin flip, a 1-0 win, draw or loss sends Fresno through.
Thousand Oaks' Danny Barrerra (Westlake HS/UC Santa Barbara) played the key role against Blue Star, setting up two goals -- his league-best fifth and sixth assists -- and scoring the finale.
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.
Hollywood United FC is finding that the National Premier Soccer League's Western Division not as tough as it hoped it would be.
The Hitmen, atop the Southwest Flight, hammered Real San Jose, 11-0, on Saturday night to improve to 4-1-0. The last three wins, all shutouts over Northwest Flight clubs, have been by an 18-0 margin. HUFC joined the NPSL, primarily for financial reasons, after playing several seasons in the rival Premier Development League, and club management cited the competitiveness of NPSL clubs when they announced the switch.
It's clear the divisional championship, barring something wholly unexpected, will be going to HUFC or the San Diego Flash, who are 4-0-0 after a 3-0 win over Bay Area Ambassadors up in Hayward. The Flash beat the Hitmen, 3-1, on April 9
Former Chivas USA winger Brent Whitfield (Long Beach/Long Beach Poly HS and Cal State Fullerton) had a hat trick after 34 minutes, and Jose Miranda and Andy Contreras pitched in with two goals apiece.
HASENTAL WINS: Thousand Oaks' FC Hasental claimed its first victory, spoiling Rattlers FC's NPSL debut with a 3-1 victory at Palmdale High School. Romanian forward Lucian Leu, Johnny Gonzalez and Omar De la Piedra (L.A. Mission College) scored for Hasental (1-3-0).
Santa Ana Winds (2-1-0) made it two in a row on the road with a 3-2 triumph at San Diego Boca on a last-minute strike by Diego Turoldo (Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills).
GRIFFIN STRIKES AGAIN: Max Griffin (Palmdale/Littlerock HS and UCLA) has two two-goal games in three games for Orlando City FC in the third-tier USL Pro. He netted a pair in a 2-2 draw Friday with Puerto Rico United and leads the third-tier league with four goals.
HUFC, which has several competitive teams in addition to the celebrity side featuring Anthony LaPaglia in the nets, last month departed the PDL to hook up with the Galt, Calif.-based NPSL, a growing outfit that promises owners more freedom and power and far lower costs.
The Hitmen, a professional team coached by former Galaxy forward Jose Botello, debuted in the new league Saturday night, eclipsing the first-year Santa Ana Winds, 1-0. Arturo Albaran's early goal was the difference in the Western Division clash at Santa Ana Stadium.
The PDL season kicks off at the end of the month -- HUFC was supposed to open at Fresno Fuego on April 29 -- and the Tampa, Fla.-based United Soccer Leagues, which administers the PDL and several other national leagues, must alter its Western Conference schedule.
A league spokesman said the plan was to announce a new slate on Wednesday. There are four L.A.-area teams remaining in the PDL -- L.A. Legends (who will play at Huntington Park High School), Orange County Blue Star (Concordia University in Irvine), Southern California Seahorses (Biola University in La Mirada) and Ventura County Fusion (Ventura College) -- after HUFC and, previously, Lancaster-based Rattlers FC, bolted for the NPSL. Thousand Oaks-based FC Hasental also has joined the league, giving it four L.A. teams, too.
“It's an area we've been trying to get into quite a while,” said Dan Trainor, the NPSL commissioner. “We know about the teams there. It's a matter of … I'll call it coming of age.”
Orange County Blue Star should be pleased.
The Rattlers' departure leaves eight teams in the Southwest Division -- five of them in the L.A. area -- with an unbalanced, 16-game schedule. Everyone must play two division rivals three times, and, wouldn't you know it, two of the most prominent sides must square off more than twice.
And Orange County, expected to battle 2009 PDL champ Ventura County Fusion and Hollywood United FC for the Southwest title and one of the division's two postseason berths, isn't one of them.
The three Ventura County-Hollywood United showdowns is the biggest news from the PDL schedule released Thursday by the Tampa-based USL. Hollywood United visits Fresno Fuego for the league opener on April 29, and the L.A. Legends are home July 24 against Fresno in the final regular-season game.
The Southern California Seahorses will open in a tripleheader May 14 at Cal State Fullerton, playing the Legends at 4:30, between W-League and USL Pro games. The other local teams' seasons begin at least 13 days earlier.
Blue Star, which opens its season May 1 against the Legends at Huntington Park High School, will play three games against L.A. and the Seahorses. The Fusion gets an extra match with the Seahorses and HUFC plays Fresno a third time.
Lancaster, rebranded as Rattlers FC, have moved to the 37-team National Premier Soccer League, another national amateur/semipro outfit. Among the NPSL's 10 new clubs are Santa Ana Winds FC, which will play at Santa Ana Stadium, and FC Hasental, based in the Conejo Valley, in and around Thousand Oaks.