Los Angeles Soccer: San Diego Sockers
The Brazilian attacker, clearly the Bolts' best player in their first season, led Anaheim with 42 points and scored 27 goals, just one off the team lead. The Bolts went 8-8 but missed the postseason.
San Diego captured its third straight league title Saturday night with a 10-7 victory over Detroit at Del Mar Arena. The Sockers went 18-0 in PASL Pro action and head into this weekend's U.S. Open Arena Cup final at the Cincinnati Kings with a 23-0 overall mark.
Kraig Chiles, who set a PASL Pro goals record with 46 but missed by two Bolts head coach/managing partner Bernie Lilavois' league record for points (66), was the league MVP. Sockers boss Phil Salvagio was Coach of the Year.
Chivas USA forward Cesar Romero, who set league records for goals in a game (9, twice) and tallied 33 times in just seven games for Tijuana before heading on trial with the Goats, was a second-team all-league pick.
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.
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.”
The Anaheim Bolts again battled the San Diego Sockers goal for goal. This time they kept it close.
What the expansion indoor team could not do was dial up its first victory. Brian Farber's goal 5½ minutes into overtime -- his second of the game -- lifted San Diego to a 7-6 victory Saturday night at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The Sockers (2-0), the two-time defending Professional Arena Soccer League champion, rallied from a three-goal, third-quarter deficit to tie the score twice in the final period, forcing overtime on Majell Aterado's power-play goal with 46 seconds to go in regulation.
Adriano de Lima scored a hat trick, Hugo Casillas added two power-play goals and Enrique Tovar had a goal and three assists for the Bolts (0-2), who opened a 5-2 lead with a little less than a minute to go in the third quarter.
Anaheim took the lead six times in a 10-6 loss to the Sockers in last weekend's opener in Anaheim, fading mightily in the fourth quarter. They faded again this time, giving up three successive goals, then surged ahead on Casillas' second with 5:10 remaining. But there was no answer for Aterado, and Farber's strike ended the game.
“I feel heartbroken for the guys,” coach Bernie Lilavois told the Bolts' website. “Our guys can be real proud of their effort, but all credit to San Diego.”
The Bolts return to Anaheim Convention Center on Dec. 2 against Western Division leader Turlock Express (4-0).
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.