Blues Face "Must-Win" in RichmondJuly 2, 2012 - USL PRO (USL PRO) Los Angeles Blues
On Thursday, the Blues fell 3-2 to hosts Charlotte in a match that was played under peculiar circumstances. Having faced Chivas USA at Fullerton 's Titan Stadium in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal clash on Tuesday, the Eagles faced the same amount of travel as Naimo's men ahead of the two teams' meeting in North Carolina, 2,600 miles removed from Southern California .
The Eagles grabbed an early lead on a penalty kick in Thursday's affair, following a dynamic run by Miguel Ferrer and a hand ball inside the box by Blues defender Erlys Garcia. Mauricio Salles converted to make it 1-0, and Christian Meza doubled the lead just after the half-hour mark.
After making four substitutions at halftime to bring on Sun-Hyung Cho, Ebrima Jatta, Brian Farber and Matt Fondy, Head Coach Naimo saw his side pull one back on a Bright Dike tally. However, Jorge Herrera made it 3-1 in the closing stages of the match, Irving Garcia's instant response moments later serving as mere consolation for the Blues.
"Neither team really had any energy in the game, due to the travel and the ridiculous heat," Naimo offered. "In a game like that, it makes a huge difference who can play with the lead and who has to chase. Unfortunately we were the ones playing from behind after the early penalty kick.
"I thought we played with a lot more energy after we brought on the four subs. They really added a lot to the game for us and allowed us to get back within one, but it was too little too late because we conceded an unfortunate goal for their third. We managed to get it right back, but part of the problem was that we only really started battling when we were behind. The same thing happened again against Wilmington ."
In the head-to-head with the Hammerheads two days later, the Blues once again had to deal with the North Carolina heat and humidity, following a physically demanding travel schedule. Their opponents would take instant advantage, jumping in front by two with less than six minutes on the clock, as Bryce Taylor and Corey Hertzog each scored on well executed breakaways. Despite the Blues putting up a fight, Wilmington would go on to take a 4-2 victory on the night.
"To concede two goals so early on just makes it really tough to get back into the game, even though we actually played a decent match overall," Naimo analyzed. "It was really just a couple of individual mistakes and tactical mistakes with our defensive cover, and we were unfortunate that they took both chances to go up by two so quickly."
The Blues responded with Dike's sixth tally in eight USL PRO appearances, but Andriy Budnyy made it 3-1 just after the half-hour mark. A strong second-half performance and a 60th minute strike by Bryan Burke would prove to little for the Blues, as forward Maykel Galindo was shown a straight red card for his involvement in a scuffle immediately following the goal, Wilmington's Hertzog pouncing on the man advantage to complete his brace and make it 4-2 before the end of the match.
"Once again, we continued to fight back and came out very energized in the second half especially," Naimo offered. "At that point, we were looking really good and were rewarded by pulling one back with 30 minutes left. It was extremely unfortunate that we conceded a red card at that point to put us down a man. Without that red card, I really think we would have seen a very different game that I don't think we would have lost."
In looking ahead to tomorrow's road meeting with red-hot striker Christopher Agorsor and the Richmond Kickers, Naimo emphasized the importance of the match in light of his side instantly turning around to host defending USL PRO champions and current league leaders Orlando City on Friday and Sunday.
"We can't complain about things not going our way," the Blues Head Coach remarked. "It happens in soccer. We now have to focus on yet another tough road game that is an absolute must-win for us if we're hoping to stay in the hunt for one of the top spots in the standings. Our upcoming home games against Orlando definitely won't be easy either, which makes it all the more crucial for us to get a result in Richmond .
"The good news is that the guys are all very responsible about the two losses and understand that we need to get back to defending well, which is something we had started to do. Oftentimes it's about the little mistakes, so everyone has to make sure they're focused and stay disciplined at all times. That's what we're going to focus on in training today. If we can transfer it into the game against Richmond, I really think we will be alright."
Naimo warned that the Kickers' three consecutive defeats in recent matches, including a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Charlotte, may be misleading in looking ahead to tomorrow's match at Richmond's City Stadium. He used struggling Antigua Barracuda's 1-0 home win over second-place Charleston last night as an example to illustrate his point.
"There are no easy games in this league," Naimo offered. "Anybody can beat anybody on any given day, as the match between Antigua and Charleston just showed. This is a league with a lot of good teams, and you can't take anything for granted. It seems like the harder-working team gets the result eight times out of ten, and I just don't think we were as hard-working in these past two games as we were in the home wins against Dayton ."
The man in charge of the Blues concluded his remarks on an optimistic note.
"We're all disappointed, but it's not the end of the world," he said. "Let's remember that we started the year 0-2 and managed to go on a very good run after that. We just have to make sure we get back into that rhythm and we'll be fine. As long as we have a winning record in the second half of the season, we should be in a good position for the playoffs."
USL PRO Stories from July 2, 2012
- Lions Look to Improve Record against Riverhounds - Dayton Dutch Lions
- Phoenix to Join USL PRO in 2013 - USL PRO
- Abby Wambach to be Featured at July 8 Doubleheader - Los Angeles Blues
- Blues Face "Must-Win" in Richmond - Los Angeles Blues
- City Islanders Earn Victory against Rhinos - USL PRO
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