Los Angeles Soccer: Max Griffin
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.
Chukwudi Chijindu's two-goal-plus-assist performance in the L.A. Blues' 3-0 victory Sunday at Pittsburgh was honored with the USL Pro's Player of the Week award.
The forward from Fontana, on loan from Chivas USA, netted his second and third goals of the campaign as the Blues (5-2-2) opened a seven-point lead atop the third-tier league's National Division.
Forward Jhonatan Bravo, who scored in Friday's 1-1 draw at Dayton, also made the USL Pro Team of the Week. Orlando City's Max Griffin, from Palmdale; former Galaxy defender Troy Roberts, with Rochester; and short-lived Blues defender Gareth Evans, with Wilmington, also made the week's-best team.
Hollywood United FC is mowing down most of the competition in the National Premier Soccer League, perhaps a little flummoxed that the level of the other teams -- San Diego Flash and perhaps Santa Ana Winds aside -- isn't quite what they saw most nights in the Premier Development League.
This week it was the Bay Area Ambassadors who took a beating, a 7-0 decision that kept HUFC (6-1-0) atop the Southwest Flight. The Hitmen, who scored six second-half goals, have struck 32 times in seven games, 30 in a five-game winning streak that has featured four shutouts.
Rene Corona (Corona/Centennial HS and Santa Ana College) was this week's hero, joining the Hitmen's hat-trick club with goals in the 19th, 58th and 78th minutes. Former Chivas USA winger Brent Whitfield (Long Beach/Poly HS and Cal State Fullerton) and Cuban forward Jose Miranda had registered three-goal games in HUFC's two previous encounters.
Whitfield scored twice and Miranda added a goal against Bay Area.
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.