Los Angeles Soccer: Fresno Fuego
Orange County Blue Star sits atop the Southwest Division standings in the Premier Development League following last week's 3-2 win at archrival Southern California Seahorses, and another victory in Tuesday night's rematch would put a little space between them and Fresno Fuego.
The sides are even on points and have virtually identical goal totals -- Blue Star's 12 for-7 against just above Fresno's 12-8 -- but Blue Star (3-0-3) have a game in hand and are on a three-game winning streak, scoring three times in each victory. Kyle O'Brien (Garden Grove/Marina HS and Vanguard University), Floridian Nico Olsak and U.S. youth national-teamer Miles Byass (Highland/Redlands HS), a junior at San Diego State, scored the goals against the Seahorses.
Fresno (3-1-3) has won just one of its last six games, and that against the U.S. Club Soccer's rep in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Fuego were on the road last week, getting bombed in the Open Cup's second round by second-division Fort Lauderdale Strikers, then managing only draws against the PDL's Utah clubs, who have never been in contention for playoff berths.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
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:
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.
Hollywood United rallied twice from deficits but couldn't do so a third time and lost in Saturday's National Premier Soccer League title game.Tommy Krizanovic's hat trick, with each goal assisted by Rafak Safi, prodded Florida's Jacksonville United to a 3-2 triumph at Madison, Ala. Krizanovic netted the winner in the 87th minute.
Hollywood United's Arturo Albarran also might have scored a hat trick, but he missed one of two penalty kicks. The Hitmen finish the season with a 14-3-1 mark, and Jacksonville closes at 8-4-0 after losing its first four games.
California teams had won four of the previous five NPSL titles: Sacramento Knights in 2006, Carlsbad-based Southern California Fusion in 2007, Sonoma County Sol in 2009 and Sacramento Gold last year.
WPSL: The Orange County Waves romped into Sunday's Women's Premier Soccer League's championship game with a 3-0 romp over defending champion Boston Aztec Breakers Reserves in heavy heat in Lisle, Ill.
Meagan Snell scored two goals and Kiki Bosio (Mission Viejo/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and Capistrano Valley HS) assisted a pair of strikes, one by Katrin Omarsdottir, for the Waves (13-1-3), who will face final-four host Chicago Red Stars (11-1-0) -- a club on hiatus from Women's Professional Soccer -- in the title match.
“This was a well-played game against a very good Boston team,” said Orange County coach Abner Rogers. “They really composed some problems for us in the first 20 minutes, but we were able to score on our first or second quality scoring chance. That made a big difference for us in the match, and we're very pleased with the way our team continued to perform ... especially in this heat.”
Boston Aztec, which is affiliated with the WPS's Boston Breakers, finished 8-3-3.
The Red Stars pulled out a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay Hellenic (10-3-1) as former Notre Dame All-American Michele Weisenhofer scored and assisted goals.
Rogers was head coach of the L.A. Sol. Chicago's brain trust includes advisor Charlie Naimo, who was the Sol's general manager and currently directs the USL Pro's L.A. Blues, who are owned by the Sol's former co-owners.
PDL: The Ventura County Fusion (10-1-6) completed their season a few steps earlier than they'd hoped to, falling, 1-0, to Kitsap Pumas (13-1-3) in the USL Premier Development League's Western Conference semifinals in Fresno.
Bryan Burke's 11th-minute goal stood up for the Bremerton, Wash.-based club, which will face Fresno Fuego (14-0-3) on Sunday for a berth in next week's league final four.
Fresno romped to a 3-1 win over the Victoria (B.C.) Highlanders on Tyler Reinhart's hat trick, which gives him 15 goals this season.
Blue Heat (8-1-5) edged the Vancouver Whitecaps (8-2-4) by one point and two-time W-League champ Pali Blues (7-1-6) by two to move within 90 minutes -- Sunday night against the Whitecaps at College of the Canyons -- of the national semipro/amateur league's final four in Tukwila, Wash.
The Seattle Sounders (8-4-3), who finished fourth in the West, will join the three conference champions as host of the July 29-31 finals at Starfire Sports Complex.
Cal State L.A. All-American Liz Franco's sixth goal of the season boosted the Blue Heat to a 1-1 draw with the L.A. Strikers, and their second scoreless draw of the campaign with Pali Blues was enough to advance the Whitecaps, who are affiliated with the Major League Soccer club and played in last year's W-League title game.
Vancouver's hopes to win the regular-season title ended with a 3-3 tie against Colorado Force, which required a three-goal comeback after Erin Gunther scored a hat trick in the first 21 minutes for the Force. UCLA star Sydney Leroux netted the last two goals, her ninth and 10th, for the 'Caps.
All three contenders failed to assert control when given the opportunity down the stretch. Blue Heat won just once in their last six games and heads into the postseason without a victory in their last three games. Vancouver and Pali won just twice in their final six.
More on local clubs and players:
There are two playoff berths available in the Premier Development League's Southwest Division and enough showdowns among the four contenders to make for a spirited final month in the regular season.
Fresno Fuego (7-0-3) and 2009 PDL champ Ventura County Fusion (6-0-4) are in the best position with six games to play, but the La Mirada-based Southern California Seahorses (6-2-2) and Orange County Blue Star (6-3-1) are will have opportunities to make their moves into the top spots.
The Fusion have the simplest schedule, with just one game remaining against the other three (July 15 at Blue Star), and the Seahorses and Blue Star each have four home games. Both also have a home-and-home remaining with Fresno.
Blue Star plays Wednesday against the Seahorses at Biola University.
The Fuego kept a two-point cushion as Milton Blanco scored his eighth and ninth goals in a 4-2 victory over the L.A. Legends in last week's action. A strike by Danny Barrera (Thousand Oaks/Westlake HS and UC Santa Barbara) lifted the Fusion past Ogden, 1-0, their first win in four league games. UCLA's Chandler Hoffman scored two more goals -- giving him a division-best 12 -- as Blue Star won its fourth in a row. The Seahorses were held to a scoreless draw by BYU.
More on local clubs and players:
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 Cañada Flintridge's Ryan Shaw with Southern California Seahorses.
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.
Alan Gordon and Victor Estupiñan scored goals to lead Chivas USA to victory in its first preseason scrimmage, a 2-0 decision Tuesday morning over the Fresno Fuego in Templeton, north of San Luis Obispo.
Head coach Robin Fraser fielded different teams for each half. Starters were included on both teams, more of them in the first half. Mexican newcomer Sergio Arias was in the nets in the first half, and trialist Kevin Guppy (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS and Cal State Northridge) took over in the second half.
Gordon headed in a cross from fellow former Galaxy forward Tristan Bowen (Van Nuys) cross to give Chivas a 31st-minute lead. Estupiñan, who entered the game in the 63rd minute, headed home a cross from Carlos Borja (Anaheim/Loara HS) in the 80th.
The Fuego play in the fourth-tier USL Premier Development League, a semipro/amateur outfit that features six L.A.-area clubs.
Reports lauded midfielder Gerson Mayen (Los Angeles/Manual Arts HS), who played in the first half, and the connection Estupiñan, a first-round draft choice, and newcomer Alejandro Moreno established up top in the second half. The Goats dominated possession throughout.
Top draft pick Zarek Valentin, expected to battle for the starting job at right back, partnered Jimmy Conrad in central defense during the first half, with returning starting outside backs Mariano Trujillo to the right and Ante Jazic to the left.
The Chivas lineups:
First half: Sergio Arias, Mariano Trujillo, Zarek Valentin, Jimmy Conrad, Ante Jazic, Paulo Nagamura, Ben Zemanski, Gerson Mayen (Jesús Padilla 31), Francisco Mendoza, Alan Gordon, Tristan Bowen.
Second half: Kevin Guppy, Carlos Borja, Michael Umaña, Yamith Cuesta, Jorge Flores (Bryan de la Fuente 70), Sal Zizzo, Michael Lahoud, Ernesto Carranza, Cesar Zamora, Jesús Padilla (Victor Estupiñan 63), Alejandro Moreno.
Chivas USA will get a test next Monday, taking on the San Jose Earthquakes in a scrimmage at Home Depot Center -- the only Southern California preseason match on the Goats' schedule so far.
The 2 p.m. game will be played on Field 6, Chivas' practice field southwest of the main stadium. Fans may watch from the sidewalk and bluff overlooking the field, but space is at a premium.
The Goats play their first preseason scrimmage Tuesday in Templeton, in San Luis Obispo County, against USL Premier Development League club Fresno Fuego. The 10 a.m. game will be played on a private ranch (717 Marguita Ave.) and is open to the public.
Chivas returns to L.A. after Tuesday's game and resumes training Friday. The team Feb. 11 heads to Casa Grande, Ariz. -- assistant coach Greg Vanney's headquarters -- for a week of work, with games slated (but not yet scheduled) against other MLS clubs working out in Arizona.
A COUPLE MORE THINGS: MLS says the full regular-season schedule will be announced the second week of February. … The league plans a “major soccer announcement” Tuesday and has scheduled a conference call that will include Galaxy captain Landon Donovan and New York Red Bulls star Thierry Henry. We hear it's an All-Star Game announcement and anticipate it will be played in New York or New Jersey.
Chivas USA is training in San Luis Obispo County, but two of the Mexican trialists hoping to hook up with the Goats are gone.
Veteran defender Joaquin Beltran and young midfielder Dmitri Gonzalez, among five non-roster players Chivas coach Robin Fraser and his staff are looking at, left camp when the team trekked Sunday to Paso Robles.
Beltran, 33, was looking for employment after leaving Gallos Blancos de Queretaro. He also has played for Pumas UNAM, Necaxa and Cruz Azul. Gonzalez, 21, formerly was with Estudiantes Tecos.
The other non-roster players in camp are former Chivas USA winger Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza, veteran MLS pool goalkeeper Kevin Guppy (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS and Cal State Northridge) and local midfielder Norberto Ochoa (Riverside/Riverside Poly HS), the brother of Estudiantes Tecos forward Sammy Ochoa.
Chivas will play its first preseason scrimmage Tuesday against the USL Premier Development League's Fresno Fuego, either in Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo.