Los Angeles Soccer: PASL Pro
There's plenty of room to improve -- on the field, sure, after a propensity for late collapse left them two games out of a playoff spot, but even more so within the organization.
Bernie Lilavois, the Bolts' managing partner, head coach and -- when needed, as in Sunday night's finale -- veteran presence on the field, understands this better than most.
“It was a learning experience for all of us,” said Lilavois, whose team won five of its last six games to finish 8-8. “The overall thing -- setting up the field, game operations, everything -- I think we learned a lot this year, so we're real excited to get hard at work tomorrow. That's when it starts.”
The Bolts' final games at Anaheim Convention Center, a doubleheader to make up a December game that was postponed because of field issues, offered plenty reason for optimism on the field. They scored seven of eight goals from late in the first through the end of the third quarter en route to a 9-6 victory in the opener, then battled to a 10-9 triumph in the second game.
Adriano de Lima scored four goals in the first game -- that was three four-game games in succession -- and Hugo Casillas netted his fourth straight hat trick and sixth of the season. De Lima scored three more in the second game to win the team's scoring title (with 42 points) and finish just behind Casillas in goals, 28-27.
Lilavois, 41, contributed a goal and an assist in just his second appearance of the season, eclipsing 1,000 points in a storied indoor career.
Mark Lee scored three goals in the first game and five in the second for Tacoma (3-13).
Anaheim, with a largely inexperienced roster, was ahead in six of their eight losses, in the second half in five of them and into the final quarter in four of them. Turn two of them into wins, and the playoffs are coming up next weekend. The travails, Lilavois hopes, will help build a better side for season two.
The Goats have a fine supply of target forwards, but Romero, 22, is a finisher who can play off a target forward, a skill that ought to prove useful when a goal is needed late in games or as an option when Juan Pablo Angel is not available.
Romero, whose signing was announced Wednesday, has two goals in the equivalent of three full matches this preseason and could add more in Friday afternoon's scrimmage against Loyola Marymount University at Home Depot Center.
“The thing I like about [Romero] is I think in most every game he's played for us, he's had a goal-scoring opportunity,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said last week. “He seems to have a good nose for the goal. He has good feet. ... He's showing some ability to be dangerous in this league; I think every team's looking for guys who can be dangerous.”
Romero is excited for the opportunity -- and for the chance to absorb from Angel, the Colombian veteran who is arguably the finest pure striker in MLS annals.
“I'm really happy I was able to get an opportunity here at Chivas,” Romero said following the 5-2 loss Wednesday night against Club Tijuana at the University of San Diego. “[Now it's time] to work hard and try to get that starting job and help the team out as much as I can.”
ANAHEIM -- An inability to hold onto leads has defined the Anaheim Bolts' first season in the Professional Arena Soccer League. With their season in the balance, they crumpled again.
The local indoor club's postseason hopes ended Sunday night when it failed to hold onto a two-goal lead with 3 minutes, 45 seconds to go in regulation. A 12-11 overtime loss to Tijuana at Anaheim Convention Center wrapped up the Western Division's playoff race, giving the visiting Revolucion the final berth and sending the Bolts sprawling into the final week of the campaign.
“This one really hurt,” said Adriano de Lima, who scored four goals for the second successive game -- two of them were real beauties -- and nearly scored an overime winner. “[Conceding leads] is the story of our season, and we knew it. Somehow we didn't know how to stop it. ...
“I think managing that lead is what makes a championship team. I guess we're not ready for it.”
De Lima added two assists, Hugo Casillas and Juan Gonzalez scored hat tricks, and Paul Wright assisted three goals for the Bolts (6-8), who traded goals with Tijuana (9-6) deep into the third quarter -- Anaheim always ahead -- extended their advantage to two goals four times, then watched the Revolucion score the final three to win. Edgar Rivas netted the winner 1:42 into the extra period, on a rebound after a Tomislav Colic turnover.
“You look at the scoreboard, you've got a two-goal lead with four minutes to play? It's disheartening,” said head coach and managing partner Bernie Lilavois, whose team benefited from four power-play goals. “It's so much hard work. It sucks to end it this way.”
The Anaheim Bolts still have playoff aspirations, which is an achievement in itself after that five-game losing streak nearly finished them off before February. This weekend's two-game sweep in Tacoma has their first Professional Arena Soccer League season hinging on two matches, it appears.
The Bolts (6-7) held on for a 12-10 victory Saturday over the Stars (3-9), then overcame an early deficit and again held on for a 12-11 win Sunday, their second and third straight victories. Hugo Casillas scored hat tricks in both -- he leads Anaheim with 21 goals -- and Juan Gonzalez and then Adriano de Lima contributed four-goal efforts.
“Tremendous, man,” head coach Bernie Lilavois, whose team has three games remaining, told ESPN Los Angeles. “That's three games in a row, and we need to win six in a row -- and we need help ... and we'll see at the end of the schedule where the chips fall.”
Three teams from the Western Division make the playoffs. Two-time defending PASL Pro champion San Diego (14-0) already has a semifinal berth. A playoff between the second- and third-place teams -- two from among Turlock (9-5), Tijuana (8-5) and the Bolts -- will determine another semifinalist. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker, and the Bolts win theirs against Turlock but not against Tijuana.
The games that most matter involve Tijuana. If the Revolucion wins Friday night in Turlock and Anaheim beats them next Sunday, then San Diego's quest for perfection (the Sockers play at Tacoma on Feb. 24) and another Bolts sweep of Tacoma (Feb. 26 at Anaheim Convention Center) sends the local team to the postseason.
ANAHEIM -- Bernie Lilavois said the Anaheim Bolts' meeting Saturday night with Arizona would be a “statement game,” and the club sure took him at his word.
The Bolts ended a five-game losing streak with a 17-3 rout of the lowly Storm at the Anaheim Convention Center's arena, easily posting a season-high for goals and giving their sagging playoff hopes a little lift.
It's still a long road to fulfilling Lilavois' preseason “guarantee” that Southern California's indoor team would reach the Professional Arena Soccer League's postseason in its first season, but this is all just growing pains, the Bolts' managing partner/head coach/sometimes player noted following Friday's 10-5 loss to San Diego.
“It's a process,” he said. “At any time, Tijuana and Turlock -- the teams we're chasing in the standings -- they can drop a couple games here and there, and we might sneak in. It's an overall process. I said it from Day One: We don't want to be one year and out, it's a long-term thing.”
Sneaking in will take some doing. There are three Western Division berths in the seven-team PASL Pro playoffs, and San Diego (13-0) has one of them as final-four host -- and the Sockers, two-time defending league champs, already have the Western title after Saturday's 13-2 defeat of Tijuana.
Bernie Lilavois had never seen a team score 28 goals before -- that was the most impressive thing about his Anaheim Bolts' lopsided loss Saturday night in Tijuana -- but he could only shake his head at the figure. He knew his team had lost before it crossed the border.
A combination of injury, illness, suspension, prior commitments and border-document issues left Lilavois with a few regulars, a lot of reserves and not much hope, and the 28-7 defeat to the Revoluccion set several Professional Arena Soccer League records, none of them the sort the Bolts might relish.
Tijuana tied the league mark with 15 goals by halftime, scored an unprecedented eight in the second quarter and shattered the record for goals in a match, scoring six more than the late Denver Dynamite and Calgary United managed during the inaugural 2008-09 season.
“When I was in Stockton, we were loaded with veterans, and we had some high-scoring games, for sure,” said Lilavois, 41, a former indoor star -- nine teams, five leagues -- who suited up for the first time in two years. “But 28 I've never seen. It was interesting. It didn't really feel like 28, It was, 'Guys, hey, let's not look at the scoreboard, let's just play,' and every once in a while you'd look up and it's 17-4. 'Really?' ”
The loss was the first-year Bolts' fourth in a row, and Lilavois is looking to use it as a foundation for a reassessment of the club -- on and off the field -- before it returns to Professional Arena Soccer League action in two weeks. Among his considerations: whether he should return to the game, in earnest.
He was forced onto the field Saturday with 11 of the 13 most important players unavailable. Two were suspended after red cards in last weekend's loss at San Diego, two had commitments dating before the team was organized, two are hurt and another is sidelined by migraines. Three more lacked paperwork to cross back and forth at San Ysidro. Lilavois gave veteran Paul Wright the night off.
“There were so many factors, so I decided to play the reserves. give them some experience,” Lilavois said. “I knew what the result would be. I knew it would be a loss. I didn't think it would be that bad, but I knew we'd be shorthanded and knew we'd lose a game.
That's what's behind the postponement of Sunday evening's Professional Arena Soccer League clash with the Tacoma Stars at the Anaheim Convention Center, a decision Bernie Lilavois, the Bolts' head coach and president, figured it best not to agonize over.
The first-year club used rival San Diego Sockers' field for its preseason tournament and first three home games this season, but its new field -- the surface, yes, but especially the boards and glass that surround it -- arrived last week.
It just didn't meet PASL Pro specifications.
“We tried to get San Diego's boards here at the last minute,” Lilavois said. “Unfortunately, their field isn't movable. They had it [configured into the ground at the Del Mar Fairgrounds] for the rest of the season. It's a fixture now. ...
“Our option was either to do it, get the game done -- try to configure something and make it work -- but it wasn't the professional standard we want to set. ... I just thought it was better to postpone it. Tacoma was good about it -- they'll be back down in February.”
Lilavois said the field was fine and would be suitable for a recreational league but that it doesn't meet professional standards. A replacement field will be in place before the Bolts' next home game, Jan. 6 vs. Tijuana.
LATE COLLAPSE: Lilavois is still smarting from the Bolts' collapse in Friday's 9-8 loss at Turlock. The Express scored seven straight goals to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 9-6 lead.
Enrique Tovar scored a hat trick to lead the Bolts (3-2) to a 6-2 victory Saturday night over the last-place Phoenix Monsoon (1-7), and Tomislav Colic's hat trick paced an 8-4 win in Sunday afternoon's rematch.
Mexican veteran Rafael Gaytan Espinoza, signed Friday, tallied twice in his debut Saturday.
Tovar leads the Bolts with nine goals.
Anaheim, which plays Friday night at Turlock and Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center against Tacoma, is a game and a half behind two-time defending PASL Pro champion San Diego (4-0) in the West. Turlock (5-3) is in second, one game back, following a win Sunday over fourth-place Tacoma (3-3).
ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Bolts' first official victory couldn't have been easier -- nor more of a challenge. And it took far longer than it should have.
The Bolts scored the first six goals, then hung on to hand the Turlock Express their first PASL Pro indoor league defeat with a 12-10 decision Friday night in front an announced crowd of 826 at the Anaheim Convention Center's arena.
Enrique Tovar scored four goals and assisted two more, Adriano de Lima added four assists and 42-year-old veteran Paul Wright's importance to the attacking flow was apparent from start to finish for the Bolts (1-2).
The game's start was delayed by a little more than an hour, until just past 9 p.m., because the glass at the attacking ends -- like the glass at hockey rinks -- arrived late from San Diego, where the field is borrowed from the two-time defending league champion Sockers.
The Bolts might like every game to start late.
“They just came out firing, you know what I mean?” Bolts coach Bernie Lilavois said. “They came out great. We've just got to learn to close games out. its the same scenario again. We got it here, but we almost got lucky.”