Jesus Rico-Sanz’s Los Angeles Blues continued their 2013 USL. PRO season against VSI Tampa Bay FC at Sherbeck Field on the campus of Fullerton College in Fullerton, Calif.
The Blues came into the contest with a record of 1-0-0 (three points), good for first place in the league. As for VSI Tampa Bay, they began their season off on the wrong foot, losing to Phoenix FC Wolves 1-0 at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. Despite the setback, Los Angeles knew that they couldn’t sell VSI Tampa Bay short because they had some solid players in forward Andriy Budnyy, midfielder JT Noone and goalkeeper Alex Horwarth, a former New York Red Bull. Additionally, the bench could hold its own.
Because the match took place at Sherbeck, the crowd was understandably sparse. Early on in the first half, Tampa threatened, and dominated possession. In the third minute, a free kick from Noone was cleared, but LA were unable to take advantage of their possession, so the match was sloppy on both ends. Chris Cortez, who scored in LA’s opening victory over Phoenix FC, missed in the seventh minute of play. One minute later, another chance for LA missed.
A corner in the 12th minute of play for Rodrigo Lopez was headed high and out. Matt Hall had another look for LA, and the Blues were piling up the corners. In the 16th minute, a free kick from VSI sailed wide left. Their first corner in the 18th minute from Tony Donatelli was subpar at best. A free kick from Alex Freitas was almost on the money and had to be cleared by LA net minder Carl Wosczcynski.
The first half was full of bad finishing. A free kick from Lopez in the 22nd minute missedthe top right corner, the Blues’ best chance of the afternoon up to that point. Freitas missed a sitter in the 26th minute, and a chance for Mershad Momeni missed wide left a minute later. Douglas Dos Santos also missed a sitter in 30th minute. A shot from George Davis IV hit the gridiron woodwork in the 33rd minute.
Another Lopez corner was cleared in the 34th minute of play, in spite of LA establishing sound possession. Woszczynski had to finally make a collection in the 38th minute of play. Momeni had another opportunity in the 44th minute of play, but neither team really got their offensive mojo going, with the first half being scoreless.
In the second half, the pace accelerated. Bitielo Jean-Jacques earned the first yellow card in the 48th minute. A big chance for dos Santos missed wide left in the 50th minute of play. In the 57th minute, Daryoush Yazdani was brought in to add some muscle in the midfield. Mauricio Salles De Allancar was cautioned in the 63rd minute for a Challenge on Cory Miller.
Davis was yet another player that missed an easy tap-in, this time in the 63rd minute. In the 66th minute, VSI upped the tempo a bit, but a chance from Sebastien Thuriere missed wide right. Antonio Neto was brought in for VSI in the 68th minute, and in a flash of Braziliance in the 70th minute, he converted thanks to a delivery from Dos Santos to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Late in the contest, more cautions were given. Thuriere also earned a card in the 72nd minute for a challenge on Momeni, who wasn’t receiving a lot of respect from the visitors fr his perceived lack of mental and physical toughness. Cortez was shown a yellow in the 75th minute, too. Perhaps the biggest collection of the day from Horwath came in the 78th minute, on what arguably the best transition opportunity from LA that was wasted. Cortez’s next chance in the 81st minute missed the top right corner easily. Jimmy Turner was booked in the 87th minute of play and Neto nearly got a brace in the 90th minute but missed horribly and also got injured. Late in stoppage time, Yazdani earned a yellow.
In the end, despite his injury, Neto’s goal was the difference, and the Blues dropped to 1-1-0 as they fell, 1-0. The Blues must develop some form of consistency in order to challenge for a postseason, and the schedule will not get any easier for Rico-Sanz’s crew. Los Angeles continue their season on Apr. 10 at home against Orlando City, one of the favorites for the USL PRO crown. Kickoff at Sherbeck Field is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.