The Saga of Santa Ana’s Elusive Pro Club: Peter Wilt to the Rescue

In this story I’ll recount the details of some meetings I had with Peter Wilt and Michael Collins in Santa Ana, in November of 2016. The purpose of the meetings was to study the feasibility of launching an NASL expansion club at Santa Ana Stadium.

The many smoke signals I’d been sending over the years concerning Santa Ana’s potential as a futbol/soccer market finally got to the well-respected sports consultant Peter Wilt, of Club 9 Sports. Peter reached out to me via email to see if we could meet to talk about how to potentially launch a pro club in town. We met at the C4 Deli in downtown Santa Ana with Michael Collins, who was the executive director of the NASL Orange County bid, and representative to main investor Peter Capriotti. We discussed potential names for a club in Santa Ana, including reviving the LA Aztecs name, along with California Surf and Santa Ana Winds FC, the demographics, his plans for a multi-tiered structure with promotion and relegation, who could be potential local investors, and more.

I helped to setup meetings and communications with then Downtown Development Liaison Victor Negrete, Councilman Vincent Sarmiento and Director of Parks and Recreation Gerardo Mouet, who became an interim City Manager not long afterward. We toured Santa Ana Stadium and found that the width of the field needed expanding. Other things the stadium needed were some upgrades to lights, seating and the locker rooms. Gerardo Mouet took note of all that and ran it through the Public Works division to see what the cost would be, starting with the field expansion, and they determined the cost to be $5 million. Expanding the field would’ve required the removal of some seating on the east and west sides of it. The expansion group then asked what the cost would be if only a portion of one side of the stadium’s seating was removed, but there was no response from the City from that point on.

This was all happening while the NASL was on life support. Peter Wilt and the expansion groups he was consulting, including San Diego–now known as 1904 FC, were literally acting to hold the league together, in trying to meet the US Soccer Federation’s imposed time constraints. This was before Rocco Commisso bought the Cosmos. In one of our dinner meetings, at Chapter One in downtown Santa Ana, where we gauged the interest of that restaurant owner’s possible partnering, Michael Collins received a call from then interim NASL Commissioner Rishi Seghal, just to check on things and to give updates, and the OC group was informed that Brian Helmick wanted to take the SF Deltas to the USL. We have to recall that this was when the Cosmos were without an owner, and much uncertainty hovered over the remaining NASL clubs. Most urgent, was that they had these aforementioned deadlines to meet, conforming to the USSF’s pro league standards that required a league to have x amount of teams by a certain year, bla bla bla.

Somewhere in between these meetings, we grubbed at the Olde Ship and the Native Son Alehouse in the downtown in addition to those other aforementioned spots, I compiled a 25 page rough guide of sorts, to steer this group in their quest for arriving in and understanding the Santa Ana market.

In retrospect, Peter Wilt’s visit to Santa Ana was just them doing their due diligence. He explained to me that they were also looking at Titan Stadium at Cal State Fullerton, and given the time constraints placed on the NASL by the USSF’s PLS, the league had to launch a team ASAP. Titan Stadium had a natural grass pitch and was not as old as Santa Ana Stadium, which was built in 1963 and had artificial turf with a gridiron (ick) installed in 2007. The Orange County NASL group was eventually announced as an expansion club and later named California United FC. They were supposed to begin play in 2018 in Fullerton. Well, that all amounted to a rush job, thanks to the PLS. The standards were such an issue that they, in part, played a role in setting off the NASL’s lawsuits that caused remaining teams to defect and leave the league inoperable.

Ultimately, it all worked out fine on the Santa Ana side. We didn’t get a team that would not play when expected, and it really wouldn’t have launched in 2018 anyway, due to the need to upgrade the downtown stadium. But, as I wrote this piece it became clear to me that, specifically in this case, the USSF’s PLS directly hindered any possibility of investing in pro soccer in Santa Ana because of their arbitrary nature and their one-size-fits-all approach, particularly with the time constraints placed on leagues. The establishment of a pro club, ideally, needs germination and not a prescribed x amount of time to reach a financial level, or for a league to hit an x amount of teams mark. See the 2018 Open Cup Handbook, where the USSF wrote in that pro clubs are eligible for the cup so long as they’re in a league with four–FOUR teams.

But the saga continues, as clubs quietly work in the background, from the ground up in hopes of establishing that ideal club that’ll create opportunities for players and staff, and one that the people of Santa Ana can call their own.

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NPSL: Southwest Conference Preview & Ranking

The NPSL Southwest Conference had three teams leave (The SoCal SC, Corinthians USA, City of Angels), leaving the conference thin once again, but it picked up an important SoCal club in FC Golden State. FCGS does well pretty much in every league they’ve competed in, including the PDL, UPSL and I expect the NPSL to be no different for them. The club is a vast upgrade over the debacle that was “City of Angels FC,” that has quietly disappeared.

This ranking will take their last season’s performance into account, and especially any recent competition, the kind of activity keeping a team like Orange County FC sharp, due to their commitment to playing in the UPSL.

Ranking

Orange County FC had some key victories in the NPSL playoffs over the other top two teams in the NPSL SW last season, namely Riverside Coras and FC Arizona, leaving no question about what was the better team in the conference. OCFC went further towards building their depth in the NPSL offseason by putting a team in the UPSL, and giving some of its NPSL players minutes in UPSL competition.

 

FC Arizona finished atop the NPSL SW regular season, but fell to OCFC in the NPSL playoffs. FCAZ aspired to join the proposed National Independent Soccer Association, but was not accepted, likely due to that league’s concentration of clubs in the East. FCAZ would’ve been the only club out west.

 

img_2939Riverside Coras were consistently one of the top three teams in the NPSL SW last season, and for one stretch of time were at the top of the conference. They had a dip in form towards the end of the NPSL season, finishing third and falling to OCFC in the playoffs.

 

ASC San Diego returns rebranded from “Albion SC Pros,” that finished fourth last season and fell 3-1 to FC Arizona in the NPSL playoffs. This club is also rumored to be in discussions with the USL D3 and NISA.

 

FC Golden State typically does well wherever it plays, as mentioned before. They’ve entered the Cal South State Cup, breaking from previous patterns shown by NPSL clubs, that opted on not entering that cup tournament. This will give them minutes, form and chemistry going into the NPSL season, and could very likely face the best of the UPSL in the State Cup. FCGS is put in this place out of courtesy to last season’s top 4, but could end up performing better than this ranking indicates.

 

Temecula FC marked the delineation of the best and worst of the NPSL SW. They won 5, lost 8, tied 3 and had a -12 goal differential. They shared a similar record (but worse in goal differential) than the now-defunct SoCal SC. Two of the three teams that finished beneath them (City of Angels and Corinthians USA) are now defunct.

 

Oxnard Guerreros lost twice as many games as it won last season, it’s debut season, with a record of 5 wins, 10 losses and 1 tie with a -5 goal differential. With the absence now of City of Angels and Corinthians from the NPSL, Oxnard enters the new season as the weakest team left in the NPSL SW, and also one of the most secluded from the rest of the league. It’s not clear, perhaps not likely, that Oxnard can build a team to compete with the top of the NPSL SW, given that they’re not as close to the higher concentration of players, leagues and activity found in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties. But, this is SoCal and talent is abundant here, although they may face competition for talent from Cal FC in nearby Thousand Oaks, that recently announced their return to playing in August 2018.

UPSL: Western Premier Preview & Ranking

The start of the Spring / Summer UPSL season is near, and here’s one observer’s preview on how some of the best UPSL teams in SoCal stack up. My Ranking takes each club’s last season form into account. New to the “Pro Premier Division” is Lionside FC, in addition to Panamerican FC and “Newcastle United,” of Upland, CA. But Lionside went on a tear all throughout their first season and has all the momentum going into this new season in a new division. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare with last season’s best finishers.

Top 10 Preview

California United FC II is the defending UPSL Champion (rebranded from OC Invicta), having gone undefeated last season against some stiff competition in the Western Premier, and that’s saying something, given that this division has three entrants qualified to the 2018 US Open Cup (four counting Orange County FC that’ll enter through the NPSL channel). Cal United has some pros on their squad and was in anticipation of playing in a professional league in 2018.

Santa Ana Winds FC had a turnaround season in 2017, having qualified to the 2018 US Open Cup and having made the UPSL National Championship final. Winds FC had one of the top offenses in the Western Premier, and their recent form has carried over into 2018 UPSL preaseaon play. Winds FC is cup tied in two tournaments, the Cal South State Cup and the Open Cup.

La Máquina did not have the season people are used to seeing from them, but they remain one of the toughest clubs in SoCal. With the 2018 tournament, they’ve now qualified to three consecutive US Open Cups. Further:

FC Santa Clarita Storm finished a respectable 5th place in the Western Premier, ahead of usual standout, LA Wolves, and only behind powerhouses La Máquina, Invicta, OCFC and Winds FC.

 

LA Wolves saw a drop in their usual form, due to a number of their best players, and coach Eric Wynalda, leaving to form the OC Invicta project (now Cal United FC II), that was intended to keep some of the eventual Cal United first team players active. LA Wolves, however, qualified to their third-consecutive US Open Cup with the 2018 version, demonstrating that their quality is still intact.

 

Sporting San Fernando finished 7th right under LA Wolves, and ahead of some decent clubs in the San Diego Zest FC 2, Strikers South Coast, and San Fernando Valley Scorpions.

 

Lionside FC tore up the UPSL Championship Division, going undefeated in their debut season, demonstrating that they need the types of challenges brought by the higher-ups in the UPSL Western Premier. It would come as no surprise to this writer if they perform higher than this ranking indicates.

San Diego Premier Pros replace San Diego Zest FC 2. SD Premier Pros are an adult branch of the Premier Soccer Academy San Diego, a youth club. The addition of an adult team into their overall club system is a similar practice to what other youth clubs are doing now. ASC San Diego, for example, now have their adult ASC San Diego “Pros” in the NPSL, and the LA Galaxy OC added an adult squad into the UPSL. Similar to all of these cases is that of La Máquina, that started as an adult branch of FC Golden State Orange County, for the purpose of competing in the UPSL.

 

San Fernando Valley Scorpions rounded out the top 10 in the last UPSL season. The prior season, Scorpions finished 7th ahead of Santa Ana Winds.

 

LA Galaxy Orange County are a rebrand of PSC Soccer Academy, and an extension of the LA Galaxy OC youth club, which is an “alliance club” of the LA Galaxy academy. Their appearance in this top 10 is made possible because of the absence of former UPSL Champion Strikers FC South Coast, which finished an uncommonly 9th last season and did not return for the 2018 Spring season.

UPSL Playoff Review: Santa Ana Winds FC vs Orange County FC

Santa Ana Winds FC and Orange County FC 2, coached by former US Men’s National Team player Paul Caligiuri, played to a 2-2 tie in regulation time in the UPSL playoffs, and went to penalty kicks where Winds FC won 6-5 at OC Great Park’s Championship Stadium on January 7, 2018.

img_2902-1        img_2937

Santa Ana started sloppily, giving a ball away in their defensive end, which led to a takeaway by OCFC and an eventual chip and goal over the Winds FC keeper, Quinn Harter. It was 1-0 OCFC in the first 5 minutes.

Santa Ana adjusted however, and both sides exchanged shots throughout the first half, but Santa Ana slightly edged out OCFC in shots in the first half, one of these being a right-footed blast from distance by attacking midfielder Jorge Herrera in the 42nd minute to puts things even at 1 at the half.

The most obvious difference between both clubs was in Santa Ana’s ball control and individual creativity, that contributed to Winds FC winning the majority of possession. Such was the flow and momentum of the match in Santa Ana’s favor, that they eventually took the lead 2-1 in the 60th minute, on a left-footed shot by striker Kramer Runager, caused by Winds FC’s attacking pressure and a deflected shot by OCFC’s keeper. That was 2 unanswered goals to OCFC’s 1 in the very early stages of the match.

It would not be until the other bookend, in the 85th minute, with most of the momentum balanced towards Santa Ana, that a penalty kick was awarded to OCFC, deflating a Santa Ana side that looked to have a victory sealed up. The subsequent PK made it 2-2 and took the match to penalties.

With the game now up in the air, Winds FC captain Ezequiel Estrada stepped up to take the first shot and blasted it to his left and up but smacked it on the cross bar. OCFC then stepped up to take their first PK, but got denied by the Winds keeper, Quinn Harter.

Both clubs then matched each other kick for kick, until the OCFC keeper denied Winds FC. With the momentum in OCFC’s favor, Quinn Harter stepped up again to deny OCFC and give Santa Ana life. OCFC stepped up again to take what would be their last shot, but this time, the Winds keeper saw the OCFC shot fly over the crossbar.

Winds FC converted on the following kick to seal the victory 6-5 for Santa Ana. The win secured the Winds a spot in the UPSL National Finals, taking place on the weekend of January 13.

After the match, Winds FC Man of the Match Quinn Harter was heard exclaiming to his huddled, celebrating teammates, “We deserved that game!”

They most definitely did. But defensive lapses will make them suffer more “than they should,” to solve and close games with a win.

Next for Santa Ana Winds FC: UPSL National Quarterfinal versus Boise FC Cutthroats, January 13, 2018, 10:00 am PST, Lake Forest Sports Park.

Did you know?

The win was Santa Ana’s second in three matches with OCFC, one UPSL preseason match that went 4-3 to SNA, a 3-0 loss to OCFC in Week 1 of the 2017 UPSL Fall season, and this 6-5 UPSL playoff win for Winds FC.

The USASA Los Angeles Top 10: May 15

This ranking comes after first round Open Cup results are in, and just before the second round kicks off.

There is additional tweaking to my ranking, with the aim of being as fair and as precise as possible. But no matter how I or anyone else attempts to rank these teams, there is no clearer indicator for ranking clubs other than direct competition. That’s why for this ranking, and from now on, where there is no direct competition in the form of inter league play, overall league (or conference where necessary) competitiveness will be weighed.

This additional metric comes after reading feedback on another ranking, where a club suggested that X league is more competitive than Y league.

This ranking will, emphasis on will, reflect ongoing club and league performance in the Open and State Cups. For example, UPSL clubs are ranked higher because they are alive in the Cal South State Cup and Open Cup, and this is a reflection of the UPSL Western Conference, while the NPSL Southwest clubs are out of the Open Cup. The NPSL’s sole Southwest Conference representative in this Open Cup was Albion Pros of San Diego, and they were eliminated by Chula Vista FC, that isn’t competing in their usual So Cal Premier League play so far this year. Thus, no NPSL club represented the LA area at all in this Open Cup. Neither are there any So Cal Premier clubs remaining in the State or Open Cups.

Here are additional metrics to be included with my initial ranking, from May 3. My aim now is to solidify, codify and standardize this ranking system.

Criteria / Definition

Region: Greater Los Angeles (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino, Ventura Counties)

Tournament Ranking: 

  1. Open Cup
  2. USASA Region IV Cup
  3. Regional Cup (South)
  4. League

Inter League Results: Tournaments, exhibitions (A loss in an exhibition match is indicative of Squad Depth).

League or Conference Strength: Gauged by the nature of its highest performing clubs, individually + combined league performance outside of league play.

Squad Depth: Gauged by a club competing in more than one tournament.

League Membership / Continuity: What is the club’s standing with its league? Is it active and in good standing? Is it on hiatus?

Cumulative League Activity: The span of league activity will be weighted, but CLA directly relates to League or Conference Strength.

Current Form: Last 5 games

The LA Top 10

1. Moreno Valley FC (UPSL) retains the top spot after earning a victory in the Open Cup over Ventura County Fusion of the PDL. MVFC has yet to make up their State Cup semifinal match with LA Wolves, the tournament in which FC Long Beach is a finalist and awaits either one of these UPSL semifinalists.

2. LA Wolves (UPSL) hold on to the second spot by winning convincingly in their first round Open Cup match, 4-2 over San Diego Zest of the PDL. The Wolves await their chance to knock Moreno Valley out of the number 1 spot, and will have to wait until their State Cup semifinal is rescheduled.

3. FC Golden State (PDL) appear in the 3rd spot after debuting in the Open Cup with a win over Outbreak SC, who at the time of this writing is the highest-performing club in the So Cal Premier League. Golden State’s appearance at this spot demonstrates the weight / value assigned to the Open Cup in my ranking.

4. FC Long Beach (CAL) club that isn’t a member of any of these leagues, but is a member of Cal South through their youth system, is a finalist in the Cal South State Cup. They’ve earned a shot at the USASA Region IV tournament along with the winner of the LA Wolves – Moreno Valley semifinal match. The winner of the Region IV tournament competes for the National Cup with the champions of the other three USASA regions.

5. Strikers (UPSL) are out of the Regional and Open Cups but will seemingly run away with the top spot in the UPSL Western Conference if they continue on their tear. Strikers last made a statement with a 4-3 comeback win over Santa Ana Winds FC in UPSL play.

6. La Maquina (UPSL) are also out of the State and Open Cups. La Maquina crashed out of this Open Cup after the first round, after a 4-1 blowout loss to Fresno Fuego. While they haven’t measured up in the State or Open Cups, they’ve picked up steam in the UPSL.

7. Santa Ana Winds FC (UPSL) have dipped in form, dropping 4 out of 6 points in their last two games, versus Anaheim and Strikers, after their elimination from the State Cup by defending USASA Region IV Champion, Moreno Valley FC. Santa Ana sits sixth in the UPSL after 10 games, with one game in hand. PSC FC has shot up to fifth in the UPSL, one point above Winds FC, but additional points were earned by SNA (for purposes of this ranking) for an Open Cup qualifying win, and two wins in the State Cup, while PSC didn’t compete in these cups.

8. Outbreak SC (SCP) is the top club in the So Cal Premier League after 16 games, good enough to retain their current top spot no matter what Real Sociedad Royals do with 15 games played. Outbreak earned 4 points in the State Cup, the same as Royals, but Outbreak qualified to the Open Cup by defeating San Fernando Valley Scorpions of the UPSL, and fellow So Cal Premier club Buena Park FC, in contrast to Royals who didn’t make the Open Cup.

9. Real Sociedad Royals (SCP) are second in the So Cal Premier League and are a traditional fixture in the USASA LA landscape, having competed in Open Cup qualifying over the years, and earned 4 points in the State Cup this year, only having missed the quarterfinal stage by very little.

10. Riverside Coras (NPSL) continue to dominate the NPSL Southwest Conference, successfully fending off attempts to take their top spot, particularly against Orange County FC and FC Arizona.

Honorable Mentions

Orange County FC (NPSL), PSC FC (UPSL), Bell Gardens FC (UPSL), Panamerican FC (UPSL).

 

The Los Angeles Area USASA Top 10

This is the first attempt to rank USASA teams in the LA area, that I know of. This ranking measures, especially, team performance across the affiliated USASA leagues (NPSL, PDL, UPSL, SoCal Premier, etc). More weight is given to clubs playing beyond their league conferences, for example. Simply put, with more success outside of league play, comes more merit. Sounds reasonable, right? I don’t think it’s that hard to comprehend.

Criteria

  1. First off, my metric encompasses clubs throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, made up of its counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino, Ventura.
  2. Results against clubs in the area, regardless of league, are especially favored.
  3. Clubs competing in cups beyond their league, and winning in those cups, are also weighted favorably.

Clarification

I’m going to lay this down once, to eliminate misperceptions in the future. I don’t subscribe to the notion that the NPSL is a better league, in general, nor by default. The NPSL has improved greatly in presentation and perception off the field, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to on-field success. I’ll give you two or three examples of how NPSL clubs haven’t delivered on the field.

The NPSL’s Sacramento Gold fell to La Máquina of the UPSL in last year’s Open Cup. Prior to that match, the Gold went on TV in Sacramento saying that they were going to come down here to win. Fast forward to Open Cup 2017 qualifying and the NPSL’s Orange County FC fell to “La Machina” [sic], on September 17, 2016.

OCFC got a “rematch” in February, and lost that too.

So what? Why do I make a big deal about this? To not assume that teams in a startup league like the UPSL, or any league, are inferior by default. This is too common a characteristic in American soccer and among its fans, even front offices.

The Top 10, Defined

1. Moreno Valley FC is the defending USASA Region IV Champion. This means they’re the best California team outside of the professional leagues (USSF divisions 1-3, do not confuse this to be anything other), and they’ve demonstrated it in the State Cup. Last year they defeated LA Wolves, the club that defeated the USL’s OC Blues, later-rebranded-as Orange County SC in last year’s Open Cup. Performance is telling, and especially against other regional standouts. “Mo Val” recently defended their state title successfully versus UPSL standout Santa Ana Winds FC in Norco, and they have another title defense coming up against Eric Wynalda’s L.A. Wolves.

2. L.A. Wolves have done some significant revamping since last year’s Open Cup exit versus Santa Ana’s La Máquina. They’ve brought on Eric Wynalda as head coach, perform consistently well in the UPSL, and are alive in two other competitions, the State Cup and the Open Cup. They have a chance to eliminate the sitting State Champion in Moreno Valley, and the have a chance to advance in the Open Cup versus San Diego Zest of the PDL.

3. La Máquina currently sits in third in the UPSL, and also has had a lot on their plate recently. They’re still alive in the Open Cup, and will travel to face Fresno Fuego at Chukchansi Park. They’re no strangers to travelling to face PDL teams. Last year, La Máquina eliminated Portland Timbers PDL, in Oregon. La Máquina was recently eliminated from the State Cup vs San Nicolás SC of Santa Barbara, by a score of 1-0.

4. Santa Ana Winds FC sit in 2nd in the UPSL and are having a turnaround season, having rebuilt their club with players from the reputable Santa Ana College Dons program. Winds FC won a 2017 Open Cup qualifying match over La Habra City, before being eliminated in the 2nd qualifying round by La Máquina. Santa Ana managed to grind out wins in the State Cup, including a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad Royals of the SoCal Premier League, and a momentous 3-2 comeback over UPSL leader Strikers South Coast. Their creative individual skills were not enough to best regional powerhouse Moreno Valley FC in the State Cup quarterfinals.

5. Real Sociedad Royals are 2nd in the SoCal Premier League, and like in-league club Outbreak SC, are accustomed to competing in extra-league tournaments. They’ve won Open Cup qualifiers in the past, and topped the best team in the UPSL in Strikers South Coast, effectively eliminating them from the State Cup. The only thing keeping them from being ranked higher than Winds FC is their loss to the Santa Ana side in the group stage of the State Cup. The Royals were eliminated from 2017 Open Cup qualifying by L.A. Wolves, 4-1.

6. Outbreak SC, of Huntington Beach, sits in 3rd in the SoCal Premier League, and has an upcoming Open Cup match against FC Golden State Force of the PDL on May 10. Outbreak qualified for the Open Cup by defeating in-league Buena Park FC and San Fernando Valley Scorpions of the UPSL.

7. Strikers FC South Coast, another Huntington Beach club, while at the top of the UPSL with goal differential, fell twice in the group stage of the State Cup. In one loss the club blew a 2-0 lead to Winds FC, who exposed them by taking control of possession, and turned the game in their favor 3-2. Strikers fell to Real Sociedad by the same score, finishing last in the State Cup group stage, but did edge out Santa Barbara club San Nicolás in the State Cup, in which the latter is a semifinalist.

8. Riverside Coras are dominating the NPSL Southwest Conference, which includes conference leaders OCFC and FC Arizona. Surprisingly, to this writer, the NPSL Southwest is the only competition Coras are participating in. Coras had a UPSL squad, and nave focused on the NPSL, which is the right thing to do in my book, but are absent of the Open Cup and the State Cup (more on this later).

9. Orange County FC is having an impressive debut season in the NPSL, sitting 2nd behind Coras. The Irvine club has a chance to bump Riverside out of 1st, in their upcoming match, which will reveal who’s the best in the NPSL SW. OCFC is undefeated and features ex-Máquina player José “Chila” Montes and ex-Sueño MLS Winner Armando “Mambo” Flores of Santa Ana, CA, among others. OCFC lost an Open Cup qualifier to La Máquina, of Santa Ana, in September 2016, and a rematch in February 2017.

10. FC Long Beach is a semifinalist in the State Cup and has won 3 matches in that tournament, in which they defeated Los Angeles United Soccer Club, of the L.A. Premier League, along with Chula Vista and Newhall Premier, but were pummeled by L.A. Wolves, which is revealing. They have an upcoming match with San Nicolás SC. FC Long Beach appears to be a non-league club, described as the men’s club of the Long Beach Youth Soccer Association. Due to this fact there’s no telling how this club would fare in leagues like the UPSL, NPSL, or the SoCal Premier’s first division. Their only measure against a UPSL club is an 8-0 loss to L.A. Wolves.

Closing thoughts

As a fan, I argue that more interleague play, outside of Open Cup one-offs and the like, are a necessary part of “growing the game,” which every league and club claims to want to do. It’s a win-win when leagues and clubs cooperate. Maybe there should be an invitational for LA area clubs. Anyway, whether observers agree with my assessment or not, USASA clubs in the LA area need prodding to produce even better matchups in the LA area. The NPSL Southwest Conference has improved greatly with its recent expansion teams. The So Cal Premier’s best will always be there pecking at the top.

Remember, before you blow a gasket, rankings are never stagnant. As boxing referee Mills Lane used to say, “Let’s get it on.”

What do you say? What’s your top ten? Do you hate me yet?

 

 

 

 

Review: Winds FC vs Moreno Valley FC

Santa Ana Winds FC fell to defending USASA Region IV Champion, Moreno Valley FC on Sunday afternoon, April 30th at Silverlakes Soccer Park in Norco, CA.

Winds FC’s comeback performance of their last Cal South State Cup match vs Strikers South Coast fell well short this time. Santa Ana found themselves down 2-0 in the first half vs Mo Val, but lacked enough team cohesion and chemistry to pull off another comeback.

Winds FC played to their individual strengths, but seemingly relied too heavily on them. In contrast, Moreno Valley looked like the more disciplined unit, sticking to their shape and weathering Santa Ana’s creativity early on.

The first 10 minutes belonged to Santa Ana, with 2-3 close goal scoring chances created, but Mo Val held and struck on a counterattack in the 25th min. Mo Val added to that at the end of the first half.

With the score 2-0 to start the 2nd half, Winds FC struggled to generate danger. Too often Winds FC were generating attacks individually with hardly any triangulation and accompaniment. A number of imprecise passes and turnovers in the midfield compounded their problems, allowing Mo Val to settle in and control the pace of the match, while sticking to their shape on possession.

Winds FC ends their participation in the Cal South Adult State Cup, while Moreno Valley FC goes on to defend their title against LA Wolves, who won their match vs San Pedro in overtime, 4-1.

Next match: Anaheim Legacy, UPSL play, May 6, 6 pm.