Charlie Naimo’s Pali Blues opened up their season on May 18 against the Los Angeles Strikers in USL W-League play. The hope for the Blues was that they would pick up the pieces from a campaign that fell short last year in the USL W-League Final against the Ottawa Fury.
The Blues coach had a premonition that their meeting with the Strikers would be more daunting than they expected.
“I am extremely concerned about the first game, as I am every year,” said Naimo to BluesSoccerclub.com. “There is an enormous amount of talent on the team, but we have not had the chance to prepare very well. This week we were without five of our players at (U-23 US Women’s) national team camp, and a few others still at school. We’ve also been nursing a few minor injuries.”
“Games are always difficult against confident teams. I think in their minds, they have formed a rivalry with us. The importance of the game is high for us, but it’s probably higher for them because they want to beat us. But we are going into the season not thinking about the rivalry. We are thinking about winning the championship.
“This team is focused, so if we can hold up physically, we’ll have a good match. They can’t look at our past record against the Strikers and get too confident, so I’m cautiously optimistic about the match.”
“I can’t wait for out game tomorrow,” said goalkeeper Anna Picarelli. “I’ve been looking forward to this since the whistle blew in the last game in 2012. After getting together with this team on the field, I know this year’s team is a championship team. The talent this group has along with the hard work everyone puts in, this team is going to turn heads and that all starts tomorrow.”
“So far, we are gelling at a rapid speed,” added defender Sasha Andrews. “We have a lot of talent in each position and are very good technically this year. We have had a scrimmage against a boys team that looked up for us, so I’m sure we will come out strong, get rid of the nerves quickly, and start this 2013 season off great.”
Unfortunately, Naimo’s biggest fears were confirmed. Pali opened the season with a shock 2-0 defeat to the Strikers at the Stadium by the Sea on the campus of Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, Calif. Jamie Bell (25′) and LeAndra Walker (89′) were on goal for the Strikers, who finally figured out an opponent that, historically, has been a bogey team for them.
As for Pali, some damage control is in order if they are to seriously contest for the Western Conference title this year in the USL W-League. Up next for the Blues is a match on a road against the Bay Area Breeze on May 31. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET.