Los Angeles Blues News Release -- www.labluesprosoccer.com
Thursday, May 3, 2012
FULLERTON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues’ training sessions had an air of anxious anticipation about them this week, as the USL PRO club is in need of points after showing well but losing both of their meetings with the Rochester Rhinos to kick off the 2012 campaign. Head Coach Charlie Naimo’s men will have two chances to climb up the standings this weekend, but it won’t be an easy task against a visiting Wilmington Hammerheads side that has registered two victories and a draw without conceding a single goal since their season-opening 4-1 loss to Orlando City.
Friday’s fixture between the Blues and the Hammerheads at Fullerton College comes only two days after the North Carolinians’ convincing 3-0 home win against Antigua Barracuda FC, courtesy of an Andriy Budnyy brace and a strike by Bryce Taylor. The Blues meanwhile fell 1-0 and 2-0 to the Rhinos in their first two matches of 2012 despite numerous promising attacking plays, in the second match especially.
“We’re focusing more on ourselves than on analyzing Wilmington,” Associate Head Coach Shayon Jalayer said. “We haven’t scored a goal in two matches and that’s a concern. We’ve addressed being a little more positive in the attacking third, which means taking a little bit more risk and having more guys make runs into the box. We’ve also been working to improve the service and make those runs pay off.”
One who will be looked to for quality service is former New York Red Bull Irving Garcia, who was selected to the USL PRO Team of the Week last week for his impressive attacking play in the 2-0 defeat to Rochester.
“The difference between us and the Rhinos was that they took their chances, so we need to play the way we did in those games but make sure we find the net this time,” Garcia said. “Once we do that and actually play with a lead, it will make it a lot easier than having to chase the game. We’ve already shown that we can get into a good rhythm. We need to find that rhythm quickly and make Wilmington chase.”
While the 24-year-old’s primary responsibility is generating offense, he stressed that improvement will be of the essence at the other end of the field as well.
“I expect Wilmington to come out with a similar approach as Rochester, so they will probably sit back and look to strike on counters with long balls over the top,” he said. “The matches against the Rhinos showed that you can possess all game and then give up a goal on a mental breakdown. But we’ve been working on that in training and I’m confident that we’ll be able to avoid those mistakes this time.”
While the Hammerheads backline is led by Welshman Gareth Evans, who was briefly under contract with the Blues during the 2011 preseason, the attack features another familiar face in former Blues forward Chukwudi Chijindu. The 26-year-old scored a team-leading four goals for the Fullerton-based club last year and now forms a dangerous tandem with his new strike partner Budnyy, who had two goals in two meetings with the Blues in 2011.
“We respect their attacking players and know a few of them quite well,” Shayon Jalayer said. “Obviously we’re very familiar with Chuck Chijindu, who can play possum for long stretches of the match and then suddenly score. Budnyy is extremely clinical around the goal and it’s no coincidence that he punished us twice last season. We’ve been encouraging our guys to be alert and not shut off at any point during these matches.”
The Blues Associate Head Coach closed his outlook on the pair of fixtures against Wilmington on a positive note, saying, “If we can be alert defensively for 90 minutes and continue to possess the ball, I’m optimistic that we’ll find a way to also be poisonous in the final third and come away with two good results.”
In light of scheduling issues at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium, the Blues have decided to give back to the community by moving Friday’s 5 p.m. PT match to Sherbeck Field at Fullerton College and make it a free event, encouraging soccer fans in the region to bring their friends and family to support Orange County’s professional team. Tickets to Sunday’s 5 p.m. PT match at Titan Stadium start at $10 and may be purchased by calling 714-738-8011 or by visiting http://lablues.ticketfly.com.