Los Angeles Soccer: Professional Arena Soccer League
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 -- The local pro indoor soccer club is still figuring things out, on and off the field, and it's not going well at the moment. The Anaheim Bolts' game presentation still requires some honing, as can attest the crowd at Friday night's game at the Anaheim Convention Center, but at least crowds appear to be growing.
The real crisis is the Bolts' propensity for second-half collapse, and they set a new standard for that Friday, watching a five-goal advantage disappear in a 14-13 loss to the Tijuana Revoluccion. That's three times they've let a lead of at least three goals get away, and they lost another game in which they led in the fourth quarter, then conceded the final six goals.
“It's a bad sign,” said Bolts head coach Bernie Lilavois, whose team dropped to 3-5 with a worse-than-it-sounds 13-6 loss Saturday night at San Diego, the Professional Arena Soccer League's Western Division leader. “If it's one or two games, you can deal with it, knowing you're team's in a funk. But all the adjustments we've been working on -- during training, at halftime -- nothing seems to be working. I've got to start looking at things, not just at myself coaching-wise, but also the players.”
The first-year Bolts were up, 7-2, heading into the final 15 seconds of the first half against Tijuana (4-4), which scored just before the break, then took over as Cesar Romero scored five second-half goals. The Revoluccion's counterattack carved up Anaheim, going a 12-4 sprint to build a three-goal lead before Paul Wright and Rafael Gaytan trimmed the deficit in the final minute.
When things go wrong, the Bolts seem to forget their fundamentals. They fail to press, don't adequately defend the pass and struggle to get back on defense, enabling foes to sprint past for easy goals.
“You get a cut on the arm, and the bleeding won't stop, and you don't know what to do to make it stop,” Lilavois said. “They score a goal against us, and then it's seven goals against us. We just can't stop those streaks.”
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.