Friday, July 6, 2012
FULLERTON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues were handed a 1-0 defeat on Friday night by defending USL PRO champions and current league leaders Orlando City. Kieron Bernard’s second-minute tally was enough for the visitors from Florida, as they grabbed all three points from their road-weary opponents behind a strong all-around performance.
The Blues found themselves trailing in only the second minute of play, Anthony Pulis hitting a corner from the left that was headed inside the left post by Bernard to leave goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh without a chance. The visitors came within inches of doubling their lead just four minutes later. This time, Luke Boden swung in a corner from the right and Rob Valentino’s glancing header at the near post whizzed across goal and just wide of the other upright.
The Lions’ next chance came in the 22nd minute, as Matt Luzunaris received the ball deep inside the box and released a dangerous blast from a tight angle that shook the outside of the net.
Blues striker Bright Dike nearly leveled things up at the other end just before the half-hour mark, as he found himself with seemingly nowhere to go at the edge of the Lions' penalty area, but displayed fantastic skills to work himself into a one-on-one with goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. Unimpressed with Dike’s determined solo effort, the Orlando City captain came up with a stunning reaction save to deny the striker’s powerful close-range effort.
The final close look of the opening period came in the 32nd minute, another Pulis corner from the left picking out Luzunaris in the center of the area and the former San Jose Earthquake redirecting the ball over Abedzadeh and just wide of the right post. While having dodged a bullet on the play, the hosts found themselves in an even deeper hole when Dike limped off the field 10 minutes later, the injury coming a mere three days after the Blues had already lost midfield anchor Ricky Waddell to ligament damage in his knee.
After an uneventful start to the second half, the Blues had an excellent opportunity to tie the match at the hour mark. Right back Bryan Burke came flying down his flank and all the way to the byline before centering a precise ball to ex-Chivas USA man Maykel Galindo, who was unfortunate to see his wide open effort ricochet off teammate Matt Fondy.
The chance seemed to energize the home side, which was playing its fourth match in nine days against the well rested Lions. Burke saw an opportunity to fire from about 30 yards out in the 78th minute and released a thunderous effort that was too hot to handle for Gallardo, who did well to parry the ball and let his defense take care of the rebound.
It was the final dangerous opportunity of the contest as the Lions held on for a hard-earned win, the Blues dropping their second consecutive 1-0 decision despite another spirited effort.
Heach Coach Charlie Naimo’s men will have an opportunity to redeem themselves on Sunday in the second of their back-to-back meetings with the Lions. U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach will be at Fullerton’s Titan Stadium for a doubleheader with see the Blues’ W-League sister club, the 11-0-1 Pali Blues, who take on the Colorado Rush (noon). An Olympic Send-Off Ceremony will be held for Wambach after the day’s first contest, followed by the men’s USL PRO rematch with Orlando (5 p.m.).
Tickets for the historic day for soccer in Orange County are just $10 and may be purchased by calling 714-738-8011 or by visiting www.labluesprosoccer.com.