Match Report: California United Strikers Shutout 1904 FC 3-0
In front of 1,102 soccer fans on a Wednesday night in Southern California, Man of the Match Christian Thierjung, Andy Contreras, and Gonzalo Villalobos all scored while Adan Coronado and Xavier Fuerte defended — creating a winning combination and producing a shutout that notched California United Strikers up the NISA Rankings chart.
California United Strikers defeated 1904 FC on Wednesday night at Championship Stadium at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.
Adan Coronado stepped away from California United Strikers FC as the club prepared for its debut campaign in the National Independent Soccer Association. It “completely changed the Strikers’ backline,” said head coach Don Ebert.
Coronado was back in the fold Wednesday night, again partnering captain Xavier Fuerte in central defense, and it was no fluke that Cal United gave its finest defensive performance of the season.
Coronado and Fuerte were rocks in the back, and the Strikers finished the chances they created, romping to a 3-0 triumph over visiting San Diego 1904 FC in front of 1,102 fans at Great Park’s Championship Stadium.
Man of the Match Christian Thierjung scored another early goal, Andy Contreras doubled the lead right after coming on in the second half, and Gonzalo Villalobos assisted one goal and added the finale in second-half stoppage as Cal United (2-1-2/W-L-T) pulled within one point of
Cal United gave its most complete performance of the season.
United, kicking off with a goal minutes into the match, the home squad prevented 1904 from penetrating into its box, dictated the terms even when conceding possession, and used a gorgeous counterattack to take a quick lead for the third time in as many home games..
“I think we’re finding us — what we’re good at, what we still need to work on — and everybody’s on the same page,” Ebert said. “We do some things really, really well, and we’re starting to understand [how to] play a little bit more to our strengths. In the beginning, we were just a bunch of 18 guys doing our thing.”
Goalkeeper Steven Barrera came up big when 1904 (2-2-0) threatened, but there wasn’t a whole lot of that.
Cal United kept things tight in the middle, dared San Diego to attack from
Coronado’s return was pivotal.
He and Fuerte had teamed together on the backline for two years — they were among the keys to Cal United’s United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) fall title run last year — but employment opportunities, in another field, had lured the veteran center back elsewhere.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to play during the NISA season,” Coronado said. “I was on and off. I decided to step away for a little bit. Just recently I got the
“We’re a family, and I felt like I needed to get back here and continue the journey together. These guys are like my brothers,” said Coronado. “Definitely, I missed them.”
Cal United missed Coronado, too, conceding six goals in the first two games — a draw with Oakland Roots and a loss to 1904, both on the road — but were stronger in a 3-0 win over the L.A. Force on Sept. 22 and a 1-1 draw three days later with Oakland. Michael Bryant had stepped in next to Fuerte and fared well, but Coronado’s presence enabled him to return to the No. 8 role, and he was a force on both sides of the ball.
Ebert was just happy to have Coronado back.
“He was our best player,” Ebert said. “Adan left us and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life, and we lost him for six weeks. And it completely changed our backline. He has been a linchpin, him and Xavier, so when he walked away, we were scrambling.
“It’s nice to have him back. He’s not 100 percent fit yet, but his soccer brain, his left foot, the composure: He adds a lot of subtlety and confidence for our team.”
The backline — with outside backs Chris Klute and Gonzalo Salguero also in top form — along with Bryant and fellow central midfielder Duncan Capriotti, who departed at halftime with a quadriceps injury, provided a foundation for the attack, which was on target when opportunities arrived.
It started in the fourth minute when Capriotti laced a perfect long ball that found Thierjung in stride behind the San Diego defense.
He pushed it past goalkeeper Marcus Norris and finished into an open net for his fourth goal of the season.
“Duncan on a dime …,” said Thierjung, the Man of the Match, who had also scored in the fourth minute against Oakland a week earlier.
Other chances failed to pan out — Villalobos headed over the crossbar from a corner kick in the 10th minute, Thierjung just missed connecting with Abraham Villon Jr. after a Gonzalo Salguero long ball in the 22nd, and Thierjung fired high from Villalobos’ feed after Bryant picked up a loose ball in the 33rd — until after the break.
Contreras came on for Kevin Jeon in the 58th minute and doubled the advantage about a minute later, beating Norris to the right post from a Villalobos through ball.
Ebert called Contreras “Our best finisher everyday in training.”
“You give Andy five chances, and he will score three,” Ebert said. “My challenge to Andy is just to increase his mobility, his ability up and down, and defensively. … But in front of the
The goal was Contreras’ first in NISA.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Contreras. “I think you’ve got to come off the bench ready and take advantage of the opportunities you get.”
Cal United’s direct approach paid off handsomely against a San Diego side that prefers to build on the ground.
“If we don’t use our speed, I should be kicked in the head,” Ebert said. “I put guys up there, and I don’t need 15 passes to score a goal. If I can get in behind, with Thierjung, Jeon and Villalobos, we can get in behind you.”
“It’s a balance. I don’t just want to kick it, but at the same time, if you’re going to commit to pressing us so hard, we’re going to go behind.”
San Diego 1904 FC, which was without injured goalkeeper Jean Gamain Antoine and midfielder William Garton, two of its best players, had a lot of the ball and kept Cal United’s opportunities to a minimum.
But the visitors from San Diego struggled in the attacking third. There were big defensive plays by Fuerte and right back Klute, both stopping first-half runs into the box by Lorenzo Ramirez Jr., and Barrera did well to deny a Brandon Lozano blast just before halftime and Christian Enriquez‘s bending shot toward the upper-right corner in the 89th minute.
“We knew they like to move the ball around and penetrate our center,” Fuerte said, “So we tried to make it very compact in the center, so they have to play around us [and send in crosses], because they don’t have height. We have the advantage height-wise.”
Villalobos scored his third NISA goal in the 91st minute after substitute Omar Nuño‘s ball into the goalmouth from the left flank bounced off a defender and fell to his feet. He took it a couple of steps to his left, to find space against two defenders, and finished simply.
Cal United, which is home again against 1904 on Oct. 20 before closing the regular season a week later against the L.A. Force at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, is a different team than the one that stepped onto a NISA field for the first time on Aug. 31.
“I think it’s the intensity,” Thierjung said. “We battle for each other. And also the confidence — that’s big. You’ve just got to believe. Any time you make a mistake, next play. You miss a shot, next play. I believe in this group of guys, and I believe we’re going to go far.”
NISA’s California United Strikers FC vs San Diego 1904 FC Goal Summary
California United Strikers FC 3, San Diego 1904 FC 0
CU — Christian Thierjung (Duncan Capriotti) 4
CU — Andy Contreras (Gustavo Villalobos) 59
CU — Gustavo Villalobos 91+
Cal United Strikers FC: Steven Barrera; Chris Klute, Xavier Fuerte, Adan Coronado (Omar Nuño, 75), Gonzalo Salguero; Duncan Capriotti (Evan Waldrep, 46), Michael Bryant; Gustavo Villalobos, Abraham Villon Jr. (Beto Navarro, 92+), Kevin Jeon (Andy Contreras 58); Christian Thierjung (Miguel Sanchez-Rincon, 63).
San Diego 1904 FC: Marcus Norris; Dallin Cutler, Alexis Velela, Ozzie Ramos, Eder Arreola (Elmer Jack Villatoro, 83); Brandon Zambrano (Hanif Wright, 92+), Felipe Liborio Jr., Christian Enriquez; Nelson Flores (Adonis Amaya, 57), Lorenzo Ramirez Jr. (Milo Barton, 64), Ernesto Espinoza (Jorge Quincy Taylor, 73).
Yellow cards: Zambrano Lopez 53, Taylor 84.
Referee: Christopher Calderon. Attendace: 1,102.