Anaheim Abuzz Ahead of Bolts' Clash With Mexico
ANAHEIM, Calif. - When the doors open on Thursday night for the Anaheim Bolts' crucial PASL clash with the visiting Mexico Toros, the home fans' wait will finally be over. After the side's last home fixture, which left quite a bit to be desired operationally, then-Head Coach Bernie Lilavois stepped down from his post to focus entirely on fixing the problems and completely transforming the team's home venue for a much improved gameday experience.
In a step intended to reflect his determination to make the Bolts' identity more visible inside Anaheim 's beautiful Convention Center Arena, Lilavois recently announced that for PASL matches it will henceforth be known as Bolts Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center .
Meanwhile, the winds of change are also blowing on the field for Orange County 's professional indoor soccer team. Former Goalkeeper Coach and new Interim Head Coach Jeff Tackett faces the challenging task of re-instilling confidence among his players, who started the season 2-0 but have since dropped to 3-5. Among the disappointing results were two that came by a single goal - one of those in overtime - as well as one away to defending champions San Diego Sockers, who are currently riding a 45-game win streak.
In addition to the fact that six of the Bolts' eight remaining regular season games are at home, the side's strong showing against San Diego less than a week ago also has Tackett optimistic that he can right the ship. The former goalkeeper recently introduced his players to a new tactical system, which made its debut in his first game at the helm, the road clash with the Sockers.
The plan appeared to work brilliantly in the opening period, at the end of which Anaheim was holding a 1-0 lead, having looked the more assertive of two strong sides. However, the second period saw the defending champs bounce back in style for a 4-1 halftime advantage. While the Bolts battled back in impressive fashion after the break, a five-goal deficit had them hanging their heads in the final period and concede six more times for a lopsided 14-3 final score.
"We had a game plan that worked in the first quarter, but then we gave up two silly goals in the second quarter, including one on an unforced turnover," recalled Tackett. "That meant we had to play more attacking-minded instead of sticking to our tactical system, which we originally wanted to do at least until halftime.
"Once we did open up, they were able to get more numbers forward and quickly score several goals. At that point we did well to increase the pressure and get two back, but it remained tough to quickly transition from an attacking mindset back into our disciplined defensive structure, which allowed them to get several more on breakaways."
The Anaheim Head Coach drew an overall positive conclusion from his side's showing in the high-profile battle, which saw a number of traveling fans make their voices heard at San Diego 's Valley View Casino Arena.
"Given that the guys had very little time to adjust to a new tactical system, I thought they did very well, especially in the first half," Tackett said. "Let's not forget that when we were up 1-0, we missed a breakaway and an open goal. If we had converted there, that could have changed the game. I thought it was a very promising performance from the team that should have everybody optimistic about the rest of the season."
He added, "In training, we've continued to work on a better defensive shape and on not allowing counter-attack goals. That's where we've really struggled this season. We've simply been too flat defensively after losing the ball. Against Mexico, we're looking to build on what we did against San Diego . That game has really been the focal point, because it showed that the tactical system we played will work once we get used to it and once the guys get more familiar with each other's roles."
Thursday's meeting with the Toros is a near must-win for the Bolts, as they look to reach the PASL playoffs for the first time in their young existence. While the visitors from Tijuana, whose 3-4 record has them sitting in 3rd place in the Southwestern Division, feature San Diego native and 2012 Chivas USA up-and-comer Cesar Romero, the 23-year-old has only made one appearance during the current PASL campaign. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be featured on the 14-man roster for the game against the Bolts.
Mexico 's greatest attacking threats are forward Alexander Caceras and midfielder Jose Juan Caballero, the skillful Caceras leading the team in goals (12) and points (16) and Caballeros ranking second in both categories (10/12). In order to be successful against the Toros, Anaheim will also have to contain leading assist man Gerardo Guerrero, who has set up five tallies so far this season, and get past experienced backline anchor Ernesto Luna. Much of the attacking responsibility for the Bolts will rest on the shoulders of sensational first-year indoor striker Luis Gonzalez and Brazilian star Adriano de Lima, whose 18 goals and 23 points are tops on the team's roster.
"It seems that Mexico is a very different team from last year, which makes it difficult to prepare for them," Head Coach Tackett offered. "That said, the emphasis has really been on our game. If we can continue to improve within our new system, learn when to open up and when to pull back, and that way avoid giving up counter-attack goals, I think we can beat any team in the league."
The Bolts will debut their transformed home venue, Bolts Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center, in their clash with the Toros on Thursday, December 27. Tickets for the 7 p.m. PT fixture 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.
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Professional Arena Soccer League Stories from December 26, 2012
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