January 11, 2013 - Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) - Anaheim Bolts
ANAHEIM, Calif. - There is an air of excitement about the Anaheim Bolts these days, as the second-year team has clawed its way back into the PASL playoff hunt. A mere three weeks ago, hopes were slim for Head Coach Jeff Tacket's men, as three straight losses saw them drop to 3-5 on the season and slip well behind the then 6-2 Turlock Express in the second of two Pacific Division postseason spots. What followed was a dramatic turnaround that now has the Bolts looking to pull level with Turlock by beating last-place Sacramento at home on Saturday.
While the Express has dropped three in a row, Anaheim recently won two consecutive matches against visiting opponents, which puts the team at 5-5 on the campaign and just one victory short of second place.
The Bolts defeated the Mexico Toros on December 27, followed by a crucial 8-7 home win over division rivals Tacoma Stars that had Head Coach Tackett pleased with his side's performance. The man who was put in charge after starting the season as the Anaheim Goalkeeper Coach praised his players' continued adaptation to the recently introduced 2-1-2 formation. Defender Garr Persson had a standout showing against Tacoma, as he played an unusual role by carrying his team's attack with four goals.
"One aspect I was very happy with was the way we got our backs involved offensively," Tackett said. "It's crucial for them to be selective about when to join in, and they did a great job of that, Garr especially. When the backs do push forward, they put us in a very good position if they can beat their mark. That's a crucial part of how we need to play in order to be successful with the new formation. The Tacoma game showed that it can work."
Despite the overall positive analysis, Tackett acknowledged the need for further improvement.
"Of course, bringing defenders up also means being ready to recover and get back quickly when we lose possession, which is why we've really been stressing that," he explained. "In addition, we still need to be more patient on offense when there are no openings. Rushing the attack only makes us vulnerable by inviting counter-attacks. We've also been focusing on getting more tap-in goals at the back post. They're a crucial element of attacking indoor soccer that we really want to master."
A major area of concern for the Bolts has been the team's tendency to let big leads slip away. The clash with the Stars was no exception, as Tackett's men grinded out a one-goal nail-biter after being ahead 8-5 in the closing period.
"Once again, we made it tough on ourselves by conceding a couple of goals after being up by a few," the Anaheim Head Coach offered. "That's why we're emphasizing keeping possession during those stretches and especially when we're trying to close out games in the final quarter. I do think we already did a much better job of that against Tacoma. When we were up by three in the fourth quarter, we held on to the ball fairly well and were a little unfortunate to give up those two goals. "
Anaheim has an opportunity to continue its progress in Saturday's meeting with the Sacramento Surge. Led by player-Head Coach Jorge Fernandez in their inaugural PASL campaign, the Pacific Division bottom dwellers will be looking for their first ever win in the match. The two sides have already faced each other twice this season, the Bolts winning their November 2 home opener 13-5 and then earning a 10-2 road win a month later.
"It's extremely important that we don't let our guard down," Anaheim Head Coach Tackett said. "The fact that they haven't won only means that they're extremely hungry for that first one. We have to take them seriously and stay focused throughout all four quarters, especially since we're still getting used to a new system. They key is not allowing Sacramento to get into the game and gain confidence.
"If we don't make the mistake of thinking they have no chance to beat us, and if we do all of the things we've been working on, I think we have a great opportunity to get another huge win and make an aggressive push for the postseason. "
Orange County's professional indoor soccer team takes on the Sacramento Surge on Saturday, January 12. Tickets for the 7 p.m. PT clash start at $12 and may be purchased through Ticketmaster or the Anaheim Convention Center Arena box office. Parking is free. For more information, please call the Bolts front office at 714-321-9898 or the Anaheim Convention Center Arena at 714-765-8980.