FULLERTON -- The L.A. Blues' second outing this season went worse than the first, on and off the field. Another loss, this time by two goals, despite nearly constant possession during the first half and a flurry of chances at the end of the second.
The Rochester Rhinos took advantage of Blues miscues to score goals six minutes apart early in the second half Friday night to post a 2-0 triumph, dropping L.A. to 0-5-2 all-time at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium and into the cellar in the third-tier USL Pro, at least until Wilmington and Harrisburg tangle Sunday.
“I'm baffled right now, I got to be honest,” said Blues head coach/GM Charlie Naimo, whose team lost its opener last week to the Rhinos, 1-0. “We wasted a half -- the first half they were there for the taking, the energy wasn't there in their team, and we didn't take advantage of it. ...
“Not a poor performance. I can't look at it and say we're bad. We're not bad. We do things well, we just can't get that elusive goal.”
Rochester goalkeeper Kristian Nicht came up big twice, making a diving stop on Irving Garcia in the 29th minute and parrying a Ricky Waddell free kick in the 73rd. The Blues' other chances -- a Garcia shot off the post, a deflected Bryan Burke blast that just went wide, and a Burke header that bounced past the upper-right corner of the net, all in the second half -- weren't on target.
“I'm a bit shell-shocked, to be honest, the fact that we lost, 2-0,” said Waddell, the captain. “That's the way soccer is. Credit to Rochester, because they came out with a game plan, same as last week -- exact same -- sat [back] and came out and attacked us, and they've done very well, and we weren't good enough to cope with that. We've got to look at that carefully as a team to sort that out.”
Rochester was patient and organized, willing to let the Blues have the ball so as long as they didn't get in behind, which they rarely did. The Rhinos had better intensity to start the second half and quickly turned it into a two-goal advantage.
Andrew Hoxie provided the Rhinos a 50th-minute lead, a sharp shot from 22 yards after shouldering an ineffective Israel Sesay off the ball. J.C. Banks made it 2-0 in the 56th, nodding home Tam McManus' chip after goalkeeper Jose Miranda knocked away Hoxie's header from Danny Earls' corner kick.
BAD GATE: Worse were the numbers at the gate. After drawing 2,432 for last weekend's opener -- 53 percent of the last season's home attendance, over 12 dates -- the crowd dropped to 2011 levels. The official count wasn't available, but our estimate was about 375.
“Obviously, that wasn't good enough either,” Naimo said. “I don't know what it is. Maybe there is something to be said about Saturday games, and we bring our numbers back to the league: 'This is what we're getting on Saturday, this is what we're getting on a Friday. How can you tell us the schedule is not hurting us.' It hurts us competitively, and now you show us it's hurting at the box office, too.”
The Blues have four home games on Fridays and three on Saturdays. L.A. is the only USL Pro team west of Dayton, Ohio, so every team that visits plays two games, usually two days apart.
The Blues received strong performances from Matt Fondy, who started atop Naimo's 4-1-4-1 alignment, and from Garcia, a former MLS midfielder and UC Irvine alum who drew praise from Rhinos coach Jesse Myers.
“The Garcia kid, number 99, is special,” Myers said, “where he's as good as everybody in the league. He scares the hell out of me. I don't ever want to see him again.”
Naimo called his team “naïve” but said he was “not that worried yet.”
“Now we've got to be concerned about getting the first win and going on a bit of a run,” he said. “I'm sure it will happen. ... We've got some guys who are about to [sign with the club, and this] gives me an opportunity to teach a couple guys some lessons early. It's sometimes good to teach a couple lessons early on.”
WORTH NOTING: No. 1 goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh missed the match with a bruised hip. Dominik Jakubek, discovered in an open tryout, was on the bench after he was cleared to play Friday morning. ... “You feel a little bit greedy” taking all six points from the two games, Myers acknowledged, and he said of the Blues: “They're very talented. It's a whole new group, so it's going to take time, but I certainly believe that's a playoff team. One thing I do appreciate about this team is Charlie plays. Those guys know how to play.” ... Rochester's goal in last weekend's opener, originally credited to McManus, was awarded last week to former UC Santa Barbara star Tyler Rosenlund. ... The Blues' game May 4 against the Wilmington Hammerheads will be moved because of a conflict at Titan Stadium. The club hopes to play at Santa Ana Stadium, but not site has yet been confirmed. ... L.A. is back at CSUF on May 6, also against Wilmington. ... Rochester spent the week in Southern California following last weekend's game and took team trips to Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and San Diego.
Titan Stadium, Cal State Fullerton
L.A. Blues 0, Rochester Rhinos 2
R -- Andrew Hoxie 50
R -- J.C. Banks (Tam McManus) 56
L.A. Blues: Jose Miranda; Bryan Burke, Ebrima Jatta (Allan Russell, 86), Carlos Borja, Sun-Hyung Cho; Erlys Garcia (Luis Gonzalez, 62); Brian Farber (Israel Sesay, 46), Irving Garcia, Ricky Waddell, George Davis IV (Cheun-Yong Park, 86); Matt Fondy. Unused subs: Chad Bond, Matheau Hall, Dominek Jakubek.
Rochester Rhinos: Kristian Nicht; Quavas Kirk, Georgios Kyriazis, Troy Roberts, Jack Traynor; Danny Earls, Tyler Rosenlund, Drew Cost, J.C. Banks (Michael Tanke, 80); Tam McManus (Conor Chinn, 90), Graciano Brito (Andrew Hoxie, 46).
Yellow cards: Davis 48, Tanke 87, Borja 90.
Referee: Jesus Cisneros. Att.: c. 375.