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California struck by Storm, lose 17-8 in front of home crowd

January 6, 2008 - Major Indoor Soccer League 2 (MISL 2) - California Cougars News Release

Stockton, CA - Jan. 5, 2008 - Cougar players received call after call about the harsh storm hitting Northern California while the team was on the road in Detroit. Upon returning home, they soon found that the worst part of the storm would come by way of Chicago. The Chicago Storm (9-4) defeated the California Cougars (7-5) 17-8 in front of a loud and raucous home crowd at Stockton Arena on Saturday night.

It was a game that the Cougars needed to win in order to climb even closer to the top spot in the Major Indoor Soccer League, but instead the game turned into the fourth home loss for the third year California franchise.

The Cougars had won the night before, 20-10 over the Detroit Ignition at Compuware Arena, by using an outstanding second half scoring barrage on route to the win. The Cougars used that momentum to propel themselves to a commanding 4-0 lead in the first quarter against Chicago.

The first goal of the game was scored by Nelson Santana. He and Semir Mesanovic teamed up on a give and go play in front of former Cougar Jim Larkin for the score. It was Santana's second goal in as many nights and yet another point for Mesanovic who leads the team with 33 points this season. The lead was then extended less than a minute later by Enrique "Qeeks" Tovar at 3:15 into the first. Craig Scheer worked with Tovar on the score against their former teammate.

The Cougars led 4-0 until 2006-07 rookie of the year Stephen Armstrong launched a three point goal thought the outstretched hands of Cougar goalkeeper Matt McDougall. McDougall started in goal for Sanaldo who sat out a game for just the second time this season. Chris Brisson followed at the 13:43 mark with a two point score assisted by Ian Bennet. Brisson's goal gave the Storm the lead, a lead they did not relinquish for the rest of the game.

The Cougars offense sputtered throughout the game and had difficulties finding its rhythm. Midfielder Brian Farber left in the first half with a bruised knee; Farber did not return to the game and his status is unknown.

The Storm went on to score two more times before the Cougars got themselves back into the game. Trailing 9-4 midway in the third, the Cougars got a much needed goal by former Storm forward Chris Handsor. The score was set up by an Eduardo Velez pass inside the penalty area in front of the goal. The goal seemed to be the spark needed to get California back into the contest, but the Storm defense held on and shut the Cougars down throughout the rest of the third quarter and deep into the fourth.

The Storm scored four consecutive times between the third and fourth quarters. The first by Carlos "Chile" Farias, then Benjamin Chavolla, those two goals were followed by back to back scores by Matthew Stewart. Stewarts first goal was a short handed score, the other was against the sixth attacker with 8:49 remaining in the game.

The Cougars did score one final time, but it was too little too late. Rookie defender Pedro Lupercio scored for the first time in his professional career, the goal was assisted by Handsor. Handsor finished with three points on the night and finished as the team leader in that category.

The Cougars out shot the Storm 32-28 in the loss, including 13 shots in the fourth quarter.

The Storm defense, anchored by goalie Jim Larkin, played superb throughout the night. The Storm used 10 team blocks to keep the Cougars at bay, and Larkin finished with 18 saves against 22 shots faced in the win. Most of Larkin's stops were acrobatic moves that left the crowd in awe.

With the win, Chicago improves to 9-4 and is tied atop the Major Indoor Soccer League with the Milwaukee Wave and Detroit Ignition.

The Cougars will recover the rest of the week before facing the Milwaukee Wave for the first time this season on Sunday, January 13. The game is scheduled to air locally on Comcast local station SJ26. The theme for Sunday nights game is "Armed Forces Night," the Cougars plan to pay tribute to the United States Armed forces during the game. Tickets are available by calling (209) 373-1550 or by visiting www.californiacougars.net.

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