Bolts Look to Win Third Straight in Arizona
PHOENIX, Ariz. - The Anaheim Bolts players were brimming with confidence this morning in their final training session before the 5.30 p.m. PT road clash with the Arizona Storm. Head Coach Bernie Lilavois' men have been receiving rave reviews for their attacking efforts in the 13-5 home win over Sacramento and the 11-8 victory at Las Vegas, and Lilavois joined in the praise when asked about his side's first two games of the PASL campaign.
"I like how the team has come together right off the get-go," he said. "If you told me before the season that we'd be 2-0, I'd take that every time. I think it's obvious that we're loaded with offensive weapons. Several players have scored or assisted on goals, which is always a great sign. It's not really a surprise though, because we knew we had assembled a group of guys many of whom are known to have a knack for producing offensively."
Among the biggest revelations for Anaheim have been two offseason acquisitions in Luis Gonzalez, who leads the team in goals and points (6/7), and former MISL attacker Diego Barrera. Having tallied four times in the first two games, Barrera is just one point shy of sharing second place on the Bolts with current All-League honoree and team veteran Adriano de Lima.
However, despite the squad's recent attacking heroics, the player who has thus far sent the greatest shockwaves around the league is goalkeeper Manabu "Manny" Kaji. A native of Kagoshima, Japan, the 25-year-old has previously been a member of the Bolts reserve side and was given the nod for the first two matches of the PASL campaign only because regular starter Mike McAndrews was away with the U.S. National Beach Soccer Team.
After a stellar showing in the season-opening victory over Sacramento, Kaji stunned a hostile Las Vegas crowd a week ago with his numerous point-blank reflexes that kept the visitors in the game and paved the way for a crucial road win.
"Given that I had only played with the reserve team before, the coach gave me a huge opportunity by choosing me for the first two games of the PASL season," said Kaji, who earned the nickname "Ninja" for his trademark way of seeming to come out of nowhere to deny the Legends on most of their close-range looks.
The former Cal State Northridge Matador continued, "I just tried to do my best and help the team win. I definitely had two very good games, but I wouldn't say I was completely shocked by my performances because I always try to prepare well in training and I knew I could play well if I was mentally and physically ready."
To Head Coach Lilavois, the fact that Kaji was able to garner so much attention wasn't all good news, as it meant that the backstop was left exposed too many times by his teammates.
"We definitely have to shore up our defense a little bit," Lilavois offered. "Giving up 13 goals in two games isn't bad, but it's also not great yet. In indoor soccer you really need five guys behind the ball and working hard for each other all the time. Manny has been unbelievable for us, but we can't force him to perform like that all the time. That's why we've been working on our team defending all week in training."
Kaji is confident that the hard work will pay off in today's match and that his side will improve to 3-0 on the season.
"We try to get better as a team in every game," the PASL's newest star said. "There are a few tactical things we probably need to fix and there have been a couple of communication issues on defense that put us in a tough spot here and there. But we've been addressing those and will continue to talk about them before the game kicks off. We've also been focusing specifically on what Arizona brings to the table, so I think we'll be well prepared."
Kaji and his mates will take on hosts Arizona Storm at the Arizona Sports Complex in Phoenix today at 5.30 p.m. PT . The Bolts' next home game is on December 9 against Turlock Express. Tickets for the 4 p.m. PT clash 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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Professional Arena Soccer League Stories from November 11, 2012
- Bolts Look to Win Third Straight in Arizona - Anaheim Bolts
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