Charlie Naimo’s Pali Blues finally did it: they are back in the USL W-League playoffs. The Blues posted a 2-0 shutout victory over the Santa Clarita Blue Heat on Sunday night at the Stadium by the Sea, on the campus of Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, Calif.
With the win, Pali gets one final chance to rectify the wrongs dealt by the one team they have yet to defeat this season: the LA Strikers.
Pali got on the board in the fifth minute of the match in a play that initiated with goalkeeper Anna Picarelli after she made a save. The ball was worked up the field and ended up at Elizabeth Eddy’s feet. Eddy then played a square ball into the penalty area for Ashley Freyer who placed it in the lower right corner of the goal for an early advantage.
The next significant chance for Pali didn’t come until the 44th minute when Chioma Ubogagu attempted a shot, but the ball sailed over the crossbar. Mele French then had a chance in stoppage time when a defender tried to head the ball up the field, but instead played it forward into French’s path. French then attempted to score off a half –volley, but her shot went high. The score remained 1-0 heading into half time.
In the second half, Sarah Killion almost doubled the lead for the Pali with a one-on-one opportunity against goalkeeper Cynthia Jacobo. Killion attempted to shoot around Jacobo, but the goalkeeper saved the shot with her foot. Eddy then found Ubogagu with the rebound, but Jacobo once again denied the Blues.
Six minutes later, Ashley Nick missed a shot from inside the six-yard box on a set piece. Pali finally scored their second goal in the 63rd minute when Eddy played a through ball to Freyer who got around Jacobo and drilled a shot into the empty net.
Pali’s attack was in full force in the second half, but no other shots were converted, and the game ended 2-0.
The Western Conference Final between the Blues and Strikers at Titan Stadium will take place on the campus of California State University, Fullerton in Fullerton, Calif. Kickoff is scheduled for Jul. 21 at 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET.