Los Angeles Soccer: Paul Wright
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.”
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.”
ANAHEIM -- Six times the Anaheim Bolts surged ahead Saturday night, and as pluses go, that was a pretty good one.
Southern California's new pro indoor team will need time to gel, of course, but there were positives in its Professional Arena Soccer League debut at the Anaheim Convention Center.
It didn't end so wonderfully, with two-time defending PASL champ San Diego scoring the final five goals for a 10-6 victory, but that didn't diminish the occasion.
“It was awesome. An awesome experience,” said Bernie Lilavois, the Bolts' head coach and managing partner. “And to have the boys come out so fired up and have the lead almost 3½ quarters of the game, you couldn't write the book better, you know?”
Kraig Chiles scored three goals and assisted two more for the Sockers, who rallied from every deficit and took their first lead midway through the fourth quarter on Dan Antoniuk's blast off the crossbar from about 35 feet. It was lopsided the rest of the way, with Chiles, Nate Hetherington and Brian Farber adding goals.
“They're loaded with talent,” Lilavois said. “When it counted, they stepped up. ... [Our] boys fell apart. It's the lack of experience, honestly. We've got, like, two guys who have played indoors, and the rest of the guys are all indoor rookies. We just couldn't hold on. If it were three quarters, we would have won the game.”
Enrique Tovar scored the club's first official goal, providing a lead 4 minutes, 7 seconds in, and Miguel Sanchez, Adriano de Lima, Carlos Borja and Hugo Casillas, with two, added goals for Anaheim.
Bernie Lilavois knows well the perils of the indoor game.
The former Cal State Northridge standout has spent most of a 20-year professional career in the arenas, from San Jose to Buffalo, Cleveland to Portland, and stops in between -- nine clubs in all, across five leagues.
“I've been around a long time, playing indoors,” Lilavois says. “I hate to say it, but every single team I used to play for doesn't exist anymore. I've seen a lot of mistakes made. But I've seen a lot of good things, too.”
It's with the good things in mind that he introduces the Anaheim Bolts, a professional indoor team that makes its league debut Saturday night at the Anaheim Convention Center. It's a culmination of a two-year project to return the beautiful game's fast-paced cousin to Southern California -- for the first time at the top level since the Anaheim Splash, one of Lilavois' former clubs, folded in 1997 after four seasons in the late Continental Indoor Soccer League.
“I just woke up one day and had a crazy idea of bringing professional indoor soccer back here,” said Lilavois, who attended La Salle High School in Pasadena and has played and coached for years in and around the L.A. basin. “Ever since the Splash finished up, I've traveled around, playing in all these cities, and in the back of my head it's been 'why not back in Southern California?' ”
So Lilavois, 41, stepped up -- he's the Bolts' managing partner, head coach and, if required, a presence on the field -- found partners and built a working relationship with the City of Anaheim, the Bolts' desired destination from Day One. Part of that is lineage from the Splash, which drew well, above 6,000 per game, played an effective, entertaining brand of the game and established itself among the CISL's better clubs.
The nature of the indoor game and its economics -- leagues and clubs fighting for survival, a battle usually lost -- doomed the Splash, just as they had Forum-based predecessors L.A. Lazers (1982-89) and L.A. United (1993).
Expenses are far less in the Professional Arena Soccer League, which kicked off its fourth season last week with 12 clubs. The salary cap is tight -- just $3,000 per game -- and every player works another job or attends school. There's no regular-season interplay between the Western and Eastern divisions, so the longest road trip is to Tacoma, Wash. The arenas are smaller (ACC seats about 7,000; capacity at the Honda Center, the Splash's home, was above 17,000). Costs are kept in check.
Now it's about attracting fans.