Los Angeles Soccer: Mickey Daly

LOCALS: Wynalda takes Atlanta job

July, 3, 2012
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Cal FC's stirring U.S. Open Cup run has given Eric Wynalda the first step toward the coaching job he covets. He's taken charge of the Atlanta Silverbacks, the last-place team in the second-division NASL, on an interim basis.

Eric Wynalda
Steven Bisig/US PresswireEric Wynalda took the head coaching job in Atlanta in the NASL, but he's essentially there to find a permanent replacement.

Wynalda, a Hall of Fame striker from Westlake Village, replaces head coach Alex Piņeda Chacon and director of soccer Rodrigo Rios, but it's not a permanent move. Wynalda last week told ESPN Los Angeles that he is merely a careholder coach -- he will lead the search for a full-time boss -- but he figures to serve the Silverbacks (1-5-8) as an adviser moving forward.

Wynalda guided Cal FC to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup -- with a surprise victory over Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers included. He previously lobbied for head-coaching jobs with Chivas USA and Chicago.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for this opportunity with the Silverbacks. It was truly one that I didn’t want to pass up,” Wynalda, also an on-air analyst for Fox Soccer Channel's international coverage, said in a statement. “This is a case of an underperforming team, and I’m honored that the club chose me to take on the challenge of turning things around and helping the Silverbacks fulfill their potential on the field.”

Atlanta, which has played in whichever league served as America's second division all but two years since 1995, has made the playoffs only three times in 15 seasons. It went 4-20-4 last year and is winless at home (0-4-3) this season.

The Silverbacks play Tuesday against Carolina and Saturday at Minnesota. Wynalda will make his debut in a July 14 home game against the Puerto Rico Islanders.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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LOCALS: Steres makes jump from PDL

June, 12, 2012
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IRVINE -- Daniel Steres was drafted by Chivas USA, spent a month in camp with the Seattle Sounders, and has been a force -- in the back or anchoring the midfield -- as the Ventura County Fusion have turned the Premier Development League's Southwest Division into their own playground.

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:

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OPEN CUP: Fusion topples Blues in OT

May, 22, 2012
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FULLERTON -- Might there be no better soccer team in the country from the 91st minute on than the Ventura County Fusion?

After scoring four goals in overtime to win their U.S. Open Cup opener last week over the Fullerton Rangers, the Premier Development League powerhouse netted two on Tuesday, dispensing with the L.A. Blues in a second-round clash.

Francisco Lopez scored his second goal of the game in the 107th minute -- 17 minutes into the extra period -- and Travis Bowen, Chivas USA forward Tristan Bowen's brother, added another with four minutes to go, and the Fusion stunned the USL Pro club, 3-1, before a sparse crowd at Fullerton College's Sherbeck Field.

Their reward: a third-round showdown next Tuesday night against Chivas USA at Ventura College, pending expected U.S. Soccer approval of the site.

Francisco Lopez converted an extremely iffy penalty kick to force overtime, and UCLA goalkeeper Earl Edwards made a save on Allan Russell's penalty kick for a Blues win in the 85th minute, but there was no doubt which side was more deserving.

With Rodrigo Lopez, a former Chivas USA and the Portland Timbers midfield, running the field, the Fusion absorbed heavy early pressure, gave up an own goal after just 13 minutes, and spent the rest of the game outbattling the Blues all over the field.

“And now we have a home game against Chivas, which we really relish,” said Fusion head coach Ole Mikkelsen, who watched the final 23 minutes of overtime from just outside Ventura County's locker room after he was sent off for angrily protesting a call. “I have to say, I thought we were [the better team]. We came out slow, which is to be expected: They're a pro team, they play together every day, they're more comfortable with each other.

“Unfortunately, a miscommunication led to that own goal -- those things happen. It could have buried us, but we kept battling, we added some rhythm, and as soon as we got that first goal, I knew that we were in it, and I knew we had a chance to take it from them.”

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