Fury's Reyes Eager to "Get Back" Visiting Turlock on Saturday
Ontario, Calif. - After taking care of business by way of an 8-2 home win over the struggling El Paso Coyotes, the Ontario Fury looks to live up to its role as favorite again and make it three straight victories when it hosts Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) Pacific Division bottom dwellers Turlock Express over the weekend. A successful outing against their fellow Californians would see Head Coach Jimmy Nordberg's men climb back into the playoff picture until at least Sunday evening, which is when direct competitors Tacoma Stars host the mighty San Diego Sockers.
The Fury's Andy Reyes, who has featured prominently in all of his side's 21 games of the current campaign thus far, offered his thoughts on the rout of El Paso, on playing with recent signing and ex-U.S. National Team regular Jermaine Jones, and on the upcoming clash with Turlock at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Ontario and the Express square off on Saturday, March 30, at 6:05 p.m. PT, with all the action being streamed live here. Tickets may be purchased or by calling 909-457-0252.
Said Reyes of the win against the Coyotes, "Everybody looked focused and ready to play. We always talk about giving it our all on defense by getting everyone back as quickly as possible and trying to press the other team, and I thought we did a good job of that. We also did well to keep possession and not force passes to our forwards too quickly. That said, there were a couple of times when we let El Paso have the ball a bit too much because we were struggling to adjust after changing our formation. Hopefully that means there's still room to grow."
One who has rapidly familiarized himself with the tactical intricacies of the indoor game, and whose acquisition has meant a massive boost on on and off the field for the Fury is former FIFA World Cup star Jermaine Jones. The model athlete came out of retirement just over two weeks ago to join the club's late postseason push and has already bagged two goals and an assist in his first two MASL appearances. Against El Paso, the German-American set up Maicon de Abreu for the opener and found the net himself by taking advantage of a defensive miscue in the third quarter.
"It doesn't even feel like Jermaine is a new player," said fellow midfielder Reyes. "At the end of the day, indoor soccer is still soccer, so I was pretty sure he wouldn't take long to learn it. That turned out to be true. Since he joined us, he's gotten the game down pretty quickly and the fact he has three points from two games shows that he's a world-class player. It's great to always see him laughing and smiling. It seems like he's really enjoying himself."
The addition of the 37-year-old Jones may have come at the perfect time for his new side, which until about two weeks ago found itself trailing significantly behind the Tacoma Stars in the hunt for the remaining Pacific Division postseason berth. Since then, Ontario has earned a dramatic shootout victory at Tacoma, in the process claiming the season series and thus the head-to-head tie-breaker at 3-2, and pulled within one win of the all-important second place courtesy of last Sunday's comprehensive defeat of the Coyotes.
In the nail-biter against the Stars, Jones sent a rocket inside the right post that nearly stood up as the winner and reminded many watching of his equalizer against Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. With the long-time U.S. international and his mates now sitting at 10-11, a win on Saturday would see them climb past 10-10 Tacoma and above the playoff line for the first time since late February, courtesy of their season-series advantage over the Stars.
Including the two teams' fixtures this weekend, the Inland Empire outfit has three games left in its regular season while Tacoma takes the field four more times. All of the Fury's remaining matchups are at home.
The fact Ontario has remained alive in the race for the knockout rounds is remarkable, given a history of painfully close losses throughout 2018-19, almost all of which have come on the road and against MASL title contenders. Of the club's eleven defeats, six were decided via shootout, in overtime or by a one-goal margin in regulation time. Another two were losses by two goals against the high-flying San Diego Sockers, including one in early February that was a one-goal affair until a chip into the open net with three seconds left to play and Fury 'keeper Chris Toth off his line to join the attack.
Said midfielder Reyes of the task ahead, "Everybody knows what we're playing for and is determined to get to the playoffs. We honestly feel that we can get wins against anyone in the league. After all, we got really close to beating the team with the best record, San Diego, every time we've played them this season. The reason we've lost to some of the best teams isn't because they outplayed us but because of small mistakes we made. If we keep doing better with that, we have a really good chance to be successful down the stretch and get into second place."
The Fury can take another step in the right direction by defeating a Turlock Express side which sits in last place in the Pacific Division at 3-18 but has continued to look somewhat improved since earning its first victory via golden goal against visiting Ontario on February 1. After starting out their season with twelve consecutive losses, Head Coach Art Pulido's men subsequently used the win over their fellow Californians as the jumping-off point for a more respectable run of 3-6 in their last nine matches.
The Fury and the Express have faced each other a total of five times over the course of the current campaign, with four of the wins having gone to SoCal.
In addition to Reyes and recent signing Jones (2nd on active roster with a 1.5 points-per-game avg.), the Ontario squad for Saturday's meeting is likely to feature yet another talented midfielder in active-roster goal-scoring leader (16) and team points and assists leader (27 and 11, respectively) Juan Carlos Gonzalez, alongside goalkeeping ace Chris Toth (4th in MASL with a .734 saves percentage) and a pair of key Brazilians in defender Maicon de Abreu (2nd on active roster with 15 goals, tied for 2nd with 19 points) and forward Francisco Cordeiro (also tied for 2nd on active roster with 19 points).
While veteran defender Victor Quiroz (leads active roster with a 1.7 points-per-game avg.) will be unavailable due to penalty points accumulation, former Fury striker Adrien Perez (25 points, 20 goals, 2.5 points-per-game avg.), who led the MASL in scoring until joining Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) just over a month ago, has not been a member of the active roster ever since.
The Turlock attack is led by a pair of dangerous forwards, Omar Tapia (leads team with 32 points, 22 goals and a 1.9 points-per-game avg., tied for team lead with 10 assists) and Jorge Carmona (2nd on team with 22 points and 12 goals, also tied for 2nd with 10 assists), and by offensively inclined defender Douglas Lima (2nd on active roster with a 1.2 points-per-game avg.). Forward Victor Parra (1.5 points-per-game avg.) has only appeared in two games this season and is listed as part of the club's inactive roster.
Ontario's Reyes shared his expectations of the clash with the Express and closed his remarks by referencing his team's narrow defeat in Northern California almost two months ago.
Said the 26-year-old, "Turlock will probably sit back a little bit, not give us too much space and try to hit us on the counter, so we've been specifically working on breaking down that kind of defensive approach. To be honest, we're still upset that they beat us up there, so we definitely want to get them back this time."
Andy Reyes, Jermaine Jones and company look to further boost their postseason odds when they face the visiting Turlock Express this coming Saturday, March 30. Tickets to all Ontario Fury home games at Citizens Business Bank Arena may be purchased or calling 909-457-0252.
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Andy Reyes of the Ontario Fury
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