Cougars Put Everything On the Line, but Lose 26-23 Against Blast
Stockton, CA - Mar. 16, 2008 - The city of Stockton and the 4,503 in attendance at Stockton Arena were treated to perhaps the most thrilling indoor soccer match of the Major Indoor Soccer League season on Sunday night. Unfortunately, the California Cougars (9-17) came out on the losing end against the playoff bound Baltimore Blast (16-9). The Cougars cut a 13 point deficit in the third quarter to five points in the fourth, but lose 26-23 in the final meeting of the season between Baltimore and California.
Baltimore forward Denison Cabral had six goals for 12 points in the match. Cougars head coach Bernie Lilavois led his team with six points including two two-point goals and two assists. Assistant coach Antonio Sutton and Brian Farber both chipped in with four points each. The two teams combined for 49 points on 54 shots. It was the highest scoring match ever played at Stockton Arena. The Blast had owned the league's best defense with a nine points allowed average before the start of the match.
The scoring in the contest happened early and often. Baltimore struck first just 14 seconds into the first quarter with Adauto Neto setting up Cabral. It was the first of six for Cabral and the first of four assists on the night for Neto. The Cougars watched as Cabral split their defense for the score. But, Baltimore would watch as Lee Williams took the ball into Baltimore territory and fired his first shot off goalkeeper Dave Kern. Kern knocked the shot down, but Williams recovered to follow up with another shot and scored past the reach of Baltimore's back-up keeper. The Cougars tied the match at 2-2 within the first 21 seconds of the match.
The Cougars waited just 24 seconds more to take the lead for the first and only time in the match. Farber launched a two-point goal into the open net after a beautiful feed sent to him by Sutton. The Cougars led 4-2 before one minute rolled off the clock in the contest. Evan McNeley was the next Cougars player to score when he pounded home a restart goal, assisted by Lilavois, at the 12:06 mark of the first.
The Cougars took the 6-2 lead into the second quarter, but would be outscored by Baltimore 13-2 in the second. Baltimore received goals from Michael Todd, Cabral, Lucio Gonzaga and PJ Wakefield. The Cougars managed just one score by Majell Aterado, leading scorer Enrique Tovar had the assist. Tovar would be ejected from the match later in the quarter after an altercation between him and Carlos Garcia. The incident came after Nelson Santana was given a blue card for making contact with Ryan Pierce while on a breakaway. Santana was originally given a blue card, but it was later changed to a red.
The Cougars trailed 15-8 at the half, but 18-8 after a Mike Lookingland goal in the first 10 seconds of the third quarter. California did not score again until Ryan Hall launched a three point goal at the 4:34 mark of the third. The three-pointer was the first of the season for Hall and it ended a 12 point run by the Blast. Hall's goal was unassisted. The Cougars trailed 18-11 until Baltimore went on yet another run. They went on to score six unanswered points in the third to take a 24-11 lead late in the third quarter.
With their season on the line the Cougars battled back once again. They refused to quit and made a 10 point run of their own between the third and fourth quarters. Rookie Pedro Lupercio started the scoring spree with a two point goal, assisted by Lilavois. Then, it was Lilavois who scored after a pass from McNeley at the 13:48 mark of the third quarter. Rookie Garth Archibald capitalized on his first professional goal with a two-pointer assisted by Sanaldo. Sanaldo laid a perfect ball to Archibald and the rookie finished the score with a chip over Kern. The Cougars continued their comeback with goals from Farber and Lilavois in the fourth and trailed 24-21 at the 9:33 mark of the fourth quarter.
But Baltimore answered yet again; their final goal was struck by Robbie Aristodemo at the 13:12 mark of the quarter. Sutton flicked the final goal for the Cougars with just 21 seconds remaining in the match.
Like many of their shots on the night, the Cougars rally came up just a little bit short of the victory.
"The boy's fought extremely hard," said head coach Lilavois. "I'm extremely proud of them. The fan's supported us through and through. It's unfortunate when outside influences affect the game they way it did tonight. We have lots of young players and we have many good things to come for the future here in Stockton."
Baltimore was able to score on three of five power plays in the match. The Cougars did not convert on their two opportunities. The Cougars missed a chance at the 7:02 mark when Kern was called for an intentional handball with Lilavois threatening to score. Sagu had two incredible saves during the power play while Kern watched from the penalty box.
California goalkeeper Sanaldo saved 10 of 21 shots faced against his former team. He allowed 10 goals in the match for 22 points. McNeley allowed one goal while serving as the sixth attacker in the final quarter. Matt McDougall allowed one goal in the match. McDougall served as the keeper during a penalty kick for the Blast. Cabral beat McDougall for the score. Sanaldo was called for his second straight penalty in consecutive games.
The Cougars stay home this week for their match against the tied for first place Detroit Ignition on Saturday March 22 at Stockton Arena. Tickets are available by calling (209) 373-1550 or by visiting www.californiacougars.net.
Notes: The Cougars received 21 fouls in the match, Baltimore had 20. Seven different Cougars players had a goal in the loss. Just four players scored for Baltimore. Lilavois is four points shy of 900 in his professional indoor career.
About the California Cougars: The California Cougars are a member of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). The MISL is a single-entity organization that features a coast to coast presence across North America including soccer talent representing players from 31 different countries. The Cougars made their competitive debut in November of 2005, after being announced on February 28, 2004. The team makes its home at the state-of-the-art Stockton Arena, in Stockton, California. The Stockton Arena opened in December 2005, and is an integral part of the cities developing waterfront district. For additional information please contact Greg Young, Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting, by phone: 209-373-1559, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Cougars' official website at http://www.californiacougars.net.
About The MISL:
The Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) was launched in August of 2001 as a six-team single-entity professional indoor soccer circuit. The MISL is comprised of a group of investors who hold ownership shares in the League, participate in a management committee, and serve as MISL team operators. The MISL League Office is located within the greater New York City metropolitan area in Westport, CT, and is managed by the League's Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Ryan. The Major Indoor Soccer League represents the major league of professional indoor soccer, featuring the finest indoor soccer players from 32 countries around the world. The nine MISL clubs competing in the 2007-08 season are the Baltimore Blast, California Cougars, Chicago Storm, 2007 championship finalist Detroit Ignition, Milwaukee Wave, and the defending MISL Champion Philadelphia KiXX, with the addition of three expansion clubs, Monterrey La Raza, New Jersey Ironmen, and the Orlando Sharks. The MISL represents the major league of professional indoor soccer, featuring the finest indoor soccer players from around the world. The 2006-07 MISL season featured six teams with the debut of the Detroit Ignition. The MISL Monterrey club, the New Jersey Ironmen, and the Orlando Sharks are set to join the competition for the 2007-08 season. The MISL is dedicated to providing its fans with outstanding entertainment at affordable prices, offering sports entertainment for a fraction of the cost associated with other major league sporting events.
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