Bolts Look to Bounce Back in Pair of Road Games
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Anaheim Bolts look to get their season back on track this weekend following a shock defeat away to the Arizona Storm in their most recent league outing well over two weeks ago. In looking ahead to Friday's meeting with Turlock Express and Saturday's clash with the Sacramento Surge, Head Coach Bernie Lilavois and midfielder Jhonatan Bravo focused on making the necessary improvements from the disappointing performance in Arizona .
The Bolts suffered a 14-13 loss to the Storm, falling victim to their own subpar performance in the first quarter. Four tallies by Luis Gonzalez weren't enough for the visitors from Southern California, as the striker was denied a last-second equalizer by goalkeeper Carlos Barraza's spectacular reflex save.
"I'd say we didn't play poorly overall, but we needed to do better in the first half," said Peruvian Bravo, whose participation in the upcoming road trip is in doubt due to flu-like symptoms. "They put constant pressure on us and I think we didn't expect that. As a result we got very anxious and didn't concentrate, which caused us to lose possession. In addition they took full advantage of our mistakes by scoring on most of their chances. Our finishing was off on the day, which didn't help either.
"We need to play much better in these next two games. It's important that we put pressure on our opponents from the start and defend more aggressively. When we did that against Arizona, we started winning the ball back and scored some important goals. In the end it was a very close game that their goalkeeper decided with a spectacular save. That shows how important it is to be awake from minute one and not fall behind early."
Against the Storm, the opening quarter belonged entirely to the opposition, whose fast breaks saw Bernie Lilavois' men exposed on several occasions. After Gonzalez had given Anaheim an early lead, Arizona came storming back with a quartet of unanswered strikes that made it 4-1.
"It took us a while to realize just how determined Arizona was to get the huge upset against us," Lilavois assessed. "At this level you simply can't afford to give anything away, so we have to make sure we match our opponents' intensity from the get-go during the road trip. We certainly have the quality to get two good results, and I'm optimistic that the guys have learned their lesson."
The Bolts travel north today for their 7 p.m. PT clash with Turlock Express. Head Coach Art Pulido's 2-2 Turlock sits in third place in the Pacific Division and thus right on the heels of 2-1 Anaheim, making the fixture between the two sides a classic six-pointer. The Bolts defense led by Garr Perrson will be facing a fierce challenge from forward Adrian Gutierrez, whose 7 goals and 7 assists put him in fourth place in the PASL with 14 points.
Saturday's match sees the Bolts, who hope for continued production from striker Gonzalez (10 goals, 3 assists) and midfielder Diego Barrera (7 goals, 1 assist), take on a Sacramento squad desperate for points. Player-coach Jorge Fernandez' men sit in the Pacific Division basement following four straight losses to start their inaugural season, one of those defeats coming away to Anaheim, which took a 9-5 win over team top scorer Fernandez and Co. in their November 2 home opener.
"We're looking ahead to a very tough and tremendously important weekend," Bolts Head Coach Lilavois said in previewing the upcoming contests. "Not only are both matches against direct rivals in our division, it's also the first time we're facing the challenge of playing back-to-back games on the road. Both venues are very difficult environments for visiting teams to get a result, and we expect our opponents to have extra motivation against us, much like we saw with Arizona ."
Midfielder Bravo is optimistic that his side can improve from the surprise loss and remain in close pursuit of division leaders San Diego with a pair of victories.
"We've been working very hard in training and have gotten to know each other better," the 26-year-old former USL PRO star said. "It's very important to know each other's movements on the field, whether someone will make a run to the right or the left when you have the ball. We've definitely improved in that area, but I think we need to keep working and get even better.
"We also need to coordinate better defensively and make sure we pressure collectively and work hard as a team. When you lose the ball unexpectedly, it's sometimes very difficult to recover, and it becomes more difficult when people aren't sure what their roles are exactly and where to be on the field. That's why we have to be very focused and communicate well from beginning to end. If we do that, we have a very good chance to get back on track."
The Bolts return home on Sunday, December 9, for another crucial meeting with Turlock Express. Tickets for the 4 p.m. PT contest start at $12 and may be purchased through Ticketmaster or the Anaheim Convention Center Arena box office. For more information, please call the team's front office at 714-321-9898 or the Anaheim Convention Center Arena at 714-765-8980.
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