Los Angeles Soccer: National Premier Soccer League

LOCALS: Santa Clarita claims playoff berth

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
4:59
PM PT

The game of the year for minor league soccer around these parts produced an unexpected result amid huge momentum swings and left one Southern California club joyous and another heartbroken.

Tyler Coombes' 14th goal of the season lifted FC Santa Clarita, a first-year club born from the ruins of the Lancaster-based Rattlers, past the previously unbeaten San Diego Flash to claim the second Southern Conference berth for the National Premier Soccer League's Western Division playoffs.

Coombes (Palmdale/Palmdale HS and Cal State L.A.) scored twice as the Storm (8-3-3) posted a 4-3 victory Sunday at Canyon High School in Canyon Country, rallying for the winning goal in the 89th minute after the Flash (11-1-2) overcame a three-goal deficit. Sergio Valle Ortiz's second goal of the evening pulled San Diego just a minute before Coombes provided the victory.

The goal was a must -- a draw would have given the No. 2 spot to the Fullerton Rangers (8-4-2), whose 4-0 rout of San Diego Boca in Santa Ana, fueled on goals by brothers Andre and Diego Turoldo (both Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills), wrapped up about an hour before Coombes struck.

Martin Galvan scored the first goal and assisted two more for the Storm, who were up, 3-0, when Alex Harlley (Rosamond/Rosamond HS) tallied three minutes into the second half.

Santa Clarita will visit Hayward-based Bay Area Ambassadors (9-4-1), the Northern Conference champion for Saturday's Western semifinals. The Flash are home against Sonoma County Sol (7-3-4) in the other semi, and the winners will meet next week for a spot in the NPSL final four.

Fullerton looked likeliest to finish second after beating Santa Clarita, 3-0, on June 24, but it fell to third after a 5-1 loss to the Flash a week later.

It also was a big week for another So Cal side: Pali Blues claimed the W-League's Western Conference title. Another, Beach FC, failed in its bid for the Pacific-South crown in the Women's Premier Soccer League.

The Ventura County Fusion, who are headed to the Premier Development League playoffs for the fourth straight year, can claim the Southwest Division championship Wednesday.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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LOCALS: Wynalda takes Atlanta job

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
3:34
PM PT
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: Rangers win NPSL showdown

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
2:22
PM PT

The Fullerton Rangers took a huge stride toward the National Premier Soccer League playoffs with Sunday's victory over FC Santa Clarita, a showdown for second place in the Western Division's Southern Conference.

Former Chivas USA/New York Red Bulls forward David Arvizu (Santa Ana/Foothill HS) scored two goals as the Rangers avenged a loss two months earlier in Santa Clarita with a 3-0 triumph at Santa Ana Stadium.

The Rangers (7-3-2) have a two-point advantage over the Storm (6-3-3) with two games to play. Both have matches remaining with the San Diego Flash (9-0-2), which has clinched the Southern Conference title.

The Rangers' NPSL team finished second to the Flash and went to the playoffs last year, when they were affiliated with the Santa Ana Winds.

Arvizu scored in the 17th and 60th minutes and Cuban forward Eder Roldan tallied in the 24th for Fullerton, which has won three in a row and scored at least three times in its past four games. Santa Clarita has won just twice in its past five games, over the division's two worst clubs (Phoenix and North Coast, with a combined 2-18-1 record), and could rue a 1-1 draw at home June 9 with San Diego Boca (4-5-3).

Santa Clarita is likely to vault back to second next weekend, when it faces fading Conejo Valley side FC Hasental (3-7-2), but getting a resullt against the Flash on July 7 is critical to the Storm' playoff hopes. Fullerton plays the Flash in San Diego this weekend, then closes July 8 at home against Boca.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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LOCALS: Steres makes jump from PDL

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
8:48
PM PT
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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LOCALS: Pali, Sounders on course

June, 5, 2012
6/05/12
4:39
PM PT

The W-League's Western Conference title appears to be headed the Pali Blues' way or to the Seattle Sounders. They're the chief contenders just four weeks into the campaign.


Pali completed sweeps of its Southern California rivals, both of them one-goal home wins, to improve to 4-0-0. The Sounders, also 4-0-0, won three games last week with U.S. national team stars Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox on hand.

Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) scored and assisted Lyndsey Patterson's goal in the 3-0 romp Monday night over Colorado Rapids' women's team. Leroux (UCLA) had an assist in a 2-1 win Thursday over the third-place Colorado Rush (3-1-0), a match that sold out the Starfire Sports Complex's 4,500-seat stadium in Tukwila, Wash.

Pali, which is affiliated with the L.A. Blues' men's team (both are coached by Charlie Naimo), got goals from Nikki Washington and Liz Bogus to beat the L.A. Strikers, 2-1, then pulled out a 1-0 triumph over Santa Clarita Blue Heat on Australian national-teamer Servet Uzunlar's goal three minutes into second-half stoppage.

The Blues and Sounders meet twice this season: June 20 in Tukwila and in the July 15 regular-season finale at Palisades High School.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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LOCALS: Blue Star overtakes Fresno

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
2:34
PM PT

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:

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LOCALS: Blue Star, Fusion surge ahead

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
7:09
AM PT

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:

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LOCALS: Open Cup starts with local fight

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
12:20
AM PT

Fullerton Rangers coach Raul Zico Ruiz expects a classic battle of opposing styles when his club takes on the Ventura County Fusion in Tuesday's opening round of the U.S. Open Cup.

Fusion coach Ole Mikkelsen doesn't know what to expect, and really doesn't care.

“At the end of the day, in the first round, you just want to play your game and get a few fortunate bounces of the ball,” he said. “I knew very little about the teams we've played in the first round the past few years, and I know very little about [Fullerton]. At the end of the day, we'll focus on the style of soccer we want play. Hopefully, it's enough to get you through.

“Last year it was. The year before it wasn't.”

The Rangers probably have the advantage at Santa Ana Stadium, owing to schedule and holdovers. They made the National Premier Soccer League playoffs last year as the Santa Ana Winds, and most of the players stuck around when the team changed sponsors -- so there's some continuity at work. They were playing Open Cup qualifiers in March and opened National Premier Soccer League play on April 7.

The Fusion, with a relatively new roster, played their first Premier Development League game last week. Many of the players who were with the team during preseason -- when they took on (and beat) Major League Soccer clubs -- are with bigger teams in more advanced leagues.

“It's a huge advantage for us,” said Ruiz, who scouted the Fusion's 1-0 PDL loss Sunday against L.A. Misioneros and says Ventura County's direct approach will contrast with the Rangers' possession-first game. “We had a couple of losses in league, but they brought the team together. We've been together now two years, and they know how each other plays and moves off the ball.”

The winner advances to a second-round game next week against the L.A. Blues, tentatively slated for Riverside Community College's Norco campus.

The Rangers are 4-2-0 in the NPSL, but both losses came when they were without midfielder leader Andre Turoldo (Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills) and backline anchor Leobardo Alvarez.

The Fusion (0-1-1 in the PDL) lost to the Arizona Sahuaros on penalties in the first round of the 2010 Open Cup -- they had qualified by winning the PDL title -- and last year beat Manhattan Beach's Doxa Italia in the first round and lost to the L.A. Blues in the second round.

Two more Southern California teams, both with pro talent, also play openers Tuesday. U.S. Adult Soccer Association Region IV champion PSA Elite, from Irvine, visits 2010 PDL champ Portland Timbers U-23, and Region IV runner-up Cal FC, from Thousand Oaks, plays at reigning PDL titlist Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton, Wash.

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LOCALS: Whitfield is king of ties

May, 9, 2012
5/09/12
5:35
PM PT
The Premier Development League season kicked off around these parts with a bunch of ties -- and one very intriguing storyline.

It involves star attacker Brent Whitfield, a former Chivas USA outside back from Long Beach (Poly HS/Cal State Fullerton) who has played for several top local clubs and was set to serve as a player-coach for L.A. Misioneros, a PDL team that's brought in some big talent in a bid to compete for a trophy.

Misioneros cut ties with Whitfield just before the season began -- it also cost them former Galaxy defender Mike Randolph, whom Whitfield had brought to the club -- and he has turned up with the Ventura County Fusion, a club he bolted two years ago to play for pay with Hollywood United.

The Fusion opened their season Saturday night at Ventura College against, wouldn't you know, the Misioneros, who took a lead midway through the first half through Edwin Miranda (Reseda/Reseda HS and Cal State Northridge), who played last year for the L.A. Blues.

Whitfield gave Ventura a share of the points, scoring just before halftime.

The other two games involving local teams also finished 1-1. Cal State Northridge's Christian Gonzalez Diaz (Mission Viejo/Mission Viejo HS) scored in stoppage Friday to lift Orange County Blue Star against visiting Pali Blues, which got a goal from UCLA's Evan Raynr (Calabasas/Viewpoint HS). Blue Star rallied against Misioneros in L.A. two nights later, with Loyola Marymount's David Ponce (Foothill Ranch/Trabuco Hills HS and UC Santa Barbara) scoring the equalizer.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

USL PRO: The L.A. Blues got a home win last week, and, true to form, it came away from Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium. The 2-1 triumph over Wilmington at Fullerton College was their first victory of the season and just their fourth in what now is 16 league home games.

The record at CSUF is far worse: no wins in nine games (0-6-3), including a “road” loss to the Galaxy in last year's U.S. Open Cup. That includes Sunday's 2-2 draw with Wilmington in the second meeting of the weekend.

The Blues (1-2-1) climbed out of the third-division league's cellar, from 11th to 10th, two points ahead of the Dayton Dutch Lions (0-2-2), the only USL Pro team without a victory, and that after winning just two of 24 league games last year. Midfielder Allan Russell, who converted a penalty kick and assisted Matt Fondy's opener in Friday's win, was selected to the USL Pro Team of the Week.

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LOCALS: Flash vaults past Santa Clarita

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
9:54
AM PT

FC Santa Clarita let a two-goal lead disappear and settled for a draw at FC Hasental. The San Diego Flash scored four times in the first half to batter the ailing Fullerton Rangers.

It was enough for an exchange at the top of the standings in the National Premier Soccer League West Division's Southern Conference, with preseason favorite San Diego (3-0-1) back in first following a 4-1 romp last weekend over the Rangers.

Lodule LoSarah scored twice after assisting Adrian Dubois' third-minutes opener for the Flash. The Rangers (2-2-0), who are third, have lost back-to-back games since losing four starters to injury: Julio Madrigal (Inglewood/Inglewood HS and L.A. Harbor College/Cal State Dominguez Hills), Diego Turoldo (Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills), Leobardo Alvarez and Thomas Culver (Vanguard University).

Santa Clarita (2-0-2) settled for a 2-2 draw with Hasental after taking a two-goal lead midway through the second half as Matt Shaxton tallied and assisted Tyler Coombes (Palmdale/Palmdale HS and Cal State L.A.) for his division-best seventh goal. The Conejos rallied after Alex Harlley (Rosamond/Rosamond HS) was red-carded, Armando “Chiva” Gaitain (Sylmar/Sylmar HS) scoring on a free kick in the 77th minute and Jeff Quijano (Canoga Park/Canoga Park HS) adding the tying goal in the 89th.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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Santa Clarita on top after shutout

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
9:40
PM PT
The Fullerton Rangers slapped around FC Santa Clarita en route to a U.S. Open Cup berth, debuting with a 5-0 romp a month ago. They discovered a very different foe in the rematch.

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.

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LOCALS: Coombes' quintet leads FCSC

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
8:55
PM PT
FC Santa Clarita's inaugural National Premier Soccer League home game couldn't have started much worse. Three minutes in and the Phoenix Monsoon were celebrating.

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.

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LOCALS: Rangers' start is strong

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
12:46
AM PT
The Fullerton Rangers' team in the National Premier Soccer League isn't exactly new, but the name and organization are, so last weekend's West Division opener in Phoenix was a debut of sorts.

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.

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LOCALS: NPSL sports a new look

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
1:30
AM PT
The National Premier Soccer League kicks off its new season Saturday, and first appearances suggest a massive turnover among the fourth-division outfit's Southern California clubs.

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.

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LOCALS: Blues cling to National hopes

August, 8, 2011
8/08/11
11:59
AM PT

The L.A. Blues are doing their National Division title hopes no favors -- Sunday's 3-0 loss at Antigua Barracuda all but killed them off.


The islanders scored three second-half goals to close their first USL Pro campaign with a season-series victory over the Blues (8-7-7), who wrap the regular season with two home games this weekend against Richmond.

Win both of them and, with help elsewhere, L.A. can vault past National leader Rochester (11-8-4) and second-place Harrisburg (9-6-7). Don't count on it.

The Blues have won just once in their past six games and dropped both games on their final regular-season road trip, also falling Friday at Wilmington despite a sizzling second-half performance.

To finish first:
  • L.A. (31 points) must win both games, Friday at Cal State Fullerton and Sunday at Norco College.
  • The Rochester Rhinos (37), who lost last week to Charlotte and New York, have to lose Saturday to Pittsburgh.
  • The Harrisburg City Islanders (34) can't win Wednesday at Charlotte or Friday at Orlando City.

One more thing, too. The Blues must make up a five-goal deficit in differential against Rochester -- that's the toughest part of the equation. Richmond (11-7-3) has conceded no more than two goals in any game this year.


The Blues were without first-choice forwards Peter Byers and Jonathan de Leon and winger Akeem Priestley against Antigua (9-13-2), which finished last in the American Division but would be fourth and on the verge of a playoff berth if it were in the National. Ranja Christian scored in the 70th and 83rd minutes and Tamarley Thomas in the 90th.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Three more playoff berths have been determined -- Pittsburgh (7-10-6) completed the National quartet, and Wilmington (13-6-3) and Richmond clinched American spots -- leaving one spot for either the Charlotte Eagles (9-7-6) or Charleston Battery (9-9-5).

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