Los Angeles Soccer: Shayon Jalayer
It took 14 months and a brilliant second-half goal from Bright Dike, who put on a clinic as the Blues took down the Dayton Dutch Lions, 1-0, before a tiny crowd at Titan Stadium.
The Blues went 0-4-2 in their primary venue last season -- one of the losses was in the U.S. Open Cup, as a road team against the Galaxy -- and were 0-2-1 this season heading into the first of a two-game series with Dayton.
“The curse is dead,” Blues coach Charlie Naimo exclaimed. “Now we can just play soccer. ... Now we can just get on with it, not come in here every day thinking, 'Are we cursed?' We won the game deservedly. We had all the chances in the game. ... We broke the curse, but we played a pretty good soccer game. That's what's important now.”
The Blues climbed above .500, at 4-3-2, while dominating the winless Dutch Lions (0-6-5). They should have scored three or four goals, and Dike, on loan from Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers, easily could have had a hat trick.
The goal he scored, in the 56th minute, was a beaut, and he hit the crossbar with a powerful drive just two minutes earlier. He might have had another in the first half, when Dayton goalkeeper Matt Williams' clearance caromed off the athletic striker and rolled back, slowly scooting just past the right post.
“That's what I came here to work on, is get that sharpness,” said Dike, who has three goals in five games since arriving in early May. “When you look at a game like that, you could have one or two, maybe even three. That's what I'm here for, and I'm in a good environment.”
Dike's pace and strength caused the Lions' defenders trouble all night, and he destroyed them on the goal. He took a pass several yards inside the midfield stripe, raced alone to the box, then fired across the goalmouth and inside the right post.
Dike made it all out of nothing, more or less, and most impressive were how he dealt with Dayton's defenders on the play, holding one off as he collected the pass -- he then turned and sprinting right past-- and expertly turning his body against another in the box, protecting the ball as he shot.
The L.A. Blues, set to play next year in the USL Pro league -- the third tier of American pro soccer -- were formally introduced Tuesday morning at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium, which will serve as the club's primary home field next year.
Here's what we've learned:
- The Blues will sit atop a club pyramid that includes two-time USL W-League champion Pali Blues' women's team, with plans to open a youth academy early next year with two boys teams -- either U14 and U16 or U16 and U18. The operating budget for next season is $800,000, but club president Ali Mansouri says it could go higher.
- Head coach Charlie Naimo (GM of defunct Women's Professional Soccer club L.A. Sol, which the Blues' backers owned a piece of) will continue as manager of the Pali Blues, although an associate coach will do much of the on-field work. His associate head coach with the Blues is former Azusa Pacific University standout Shayon Jalayer, and longtime Blues coach Salvador "Chava" Moran is the assistant director of player personnel. Former Cal Baptist standout David Adams (who played in reserve games for Chivas USA) is the GM.
- Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Dautt, former Galaxy midfielder Josh Tudela and attacking midfielder Cesar Rivera, a veteran of Blues amateur teams with experience in Mexico's lower divisions, are the club's first three players. The Blues are expecting to sign Gareth Evans, an All-USL2 central defender last season with Real Maryland who is playing on loan to England minor-league side Chester FC. There's a Blues-bred striker on trial with Mexico City's Cruz Azul -- Mansouri would not divulge his name -- the club will sign if the Cementeros decline to do so.