Cal United Beats LA Force in Packed Home Opener
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Cal United Rises to Second in the NISA standings, two points behind Miami FC (2-0-0) after packed Home Opener Victory Over LA Force
California United Strikers labored through two tough road games to kick off the initial National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) season and was determined to show better in the home opener with the first clash in front of the home fans.
United’sGustavo Villalobos scored an early goal and set up two more in the second half and goalkeeper Steven Barrera highlighted a strong defensive effort with a penalty-kick save as Cal United (1-1-1/W-L-T) romped to a 3-0 triumph over the visiting L.A. Force (1-1-0) before a big, vibrant crowd at Great Park’s Championship Stadium.
Christian Thierjung and Chris Klute also tallied for United, who were far sharper than in their first two NISA matches, a three-goal
“I was just pleased that everyone stuck together,” a happy Cal United head coach Don Ebert said afterward. “There was a much better vibe. San Diego was a downer — we were down. We didn’t play well, we missed a lot of chances, we were just down. We needed this. We needed a good team game, to feel good about ourselves and move forward.”
That they got, dominating huge portions of play behind a speedy front line and stingy defense, getting a second goal just six minutes into the second half, then closing down LA’s biggest threat — right winger Ricardo Ruiz — and killing the visitors’ confidence when Barrera, making his first NISA start, dived to deny Lorenzo Ramos Garcia at the penalty spot with a half-hour to go.
United, their foundation built on the Cal United side that won the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL)fall title last year, exhibited tremendous growth from the first two games, especially on the attack.
Ebert used his fleetest attacking unit — Villalobos, Thierjung, Kevin Jeon and Abraham Villon Jr. — to maximum effect.
Their ability to interchange kept L.A.’s defense on its heels and led to plenty of opportunities.
That also was
This match was #SoCalDerby as #HomeOfTheDream took on #WeAreTheFORCE
“It’s slowly coming together,” said Villalobos, who modulated the Cal United attack. “I think the first two games were maybe a little bit nervous, and we were also on the road, so that made it harder for us as well. … It was a better feeling. We’d been playing well, but we were always on the back foot, always chasing the game, and
The crowd of 2,092 which filled Championship Stadium’s western stands and waved the club scarves handed out before the game, provided strong support, and United used it to their advantage, climbing to second in the NISA standings, two points behind Miami FC (2-0-0).
“It was amazing,” Villalobos said. “Honestly, all the people working in the front office, they’ve done such good work. Everything was perfect. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
The home opener match started slowly for Cal United, and again in the start the second half. L.A., which beat 1904 FC, 2-0 in its opener two weeks ago in Whittier initially penned United within their defensive third. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the home side took control.
“I don’t know what that is,” Ebert said. “We talk about our starts. Our starts aren’t good. We’ve got to do something.”
“At halftime, I said the best thing to do is get a second goal and take the Force’s heart out of it.”Don Ebert, Head Coach California United Strikers
“They are already, I thought, a little tired — but we start slow again, and there seems to be some moment and all of a sudden we kick it in, and then it looked good,” said Ebert.
Villalobos gave United an
Cal United had chances to add to the advantage, but Gonzalo Salguero‘s freekick from just left of the L.A. box went untouched through the goalmouth in the 33rd minute.
Culwell did well to dispossess Jeon on a counter led by Villalobos four minutes later, and Connor Johnson got in the way of Thierjung’s attempt from a Jeon feed four minutes after that.
Once United absorbed a strong Force start to the second half, Thierjung doubled the advantage.
It came from a low Villalobos cross from the right flank, and Thierjung’s first try bounced off Culwell and dropped perfectly for a second shot, which beat Marin Perez.
Ebert fiddled with his defense, using Barrera in place of Kifi Cabrera, who struggled in the first two games, and inserting Michael Bryant as captain Xavier Fuerte’s partner in central defense. The Force created chances but the backline was up to the challenge.
“Our backline, we’ve been really talking a lot over the last couple of weeks because we’ve gotten scored on, six goals in two games,” said Klute, who has five years’ MLS experience. “We know that all the goals we got scored on were mistakes by us, so we had to cut those out pretty much for us to have a chance to win a game.”
“We figured that at our first home game, we should show everyone what we’re actually capable of, andKlute, California United Strikers
that’s geta shutout.”
California United Strikers accomplished what they set out to do and got the clean sheet, thanks to Barrera.
Fuerte was late on a slide tackle on winger Ricardo Ruiz at the right edge of the box in the 57th minute, and referee Omeed Azadpour pointed to the spot.
Barrera, who has a history of success on penalties, dived to his right to stop Ramos Garcia’s spot kick.
“I just figured I’d play it off of pure instinct and do the best I could with it,” Barrera said. “I tried to gold him until the last second, and, lucky for me, I guessed the right way.”
Villalobos called the save “huge, just huge.”
Final Score: California United Strikers 3, L.A. Force 0
California United Strikers vs L.A. Force Goals:
CU — Gustavo Villalobos 11
CU — Christian Thierjung 51
CU — Chris Klute (Gustavo Villalobos) 80
California United FC Strikers: Steven Barrera (Kifi Cabrera, 61); Chris Klute, Michael Bryant, Xavier Fuerte, Gonzalo Salguero; Stewart Capriotti, Miguel Sanchez-Rincon (Jackson Jellah, 90); Gustavo Villalobos, Abraham Villon Jr. (Evan Waldrep, 70), Kevin Jeon (Andy Contreras, 53); Christian Thierjung (Omar Nuño, 74).
L.A. Force: Miguel Marin Perez; Mark Tanko (Fernando Mercado, 76), Joshua Culwell, Connor Johnson (James Alewine, 46), Gregory Salazar; Leonardo Silvas Dos Anjos; Ricardo Ruiz, Cristhian Hernandez Cardenas (Frantz Dalusma, 87); Naeem Charles (Lorenzo Ramos Garcia, 46); Alvaro Madrigal-Zavala, Tomas Alessandro Canale (Noah Cavanaugh, 65).
Yellow cards: Silva Dos Anjos 15, Villon 43, Tanko 63.