The New American Professional Soccer League Kicks Off
Two new professional soccer teams, the Oakland Roots and California United Strikers play to a 3-3 tie in their first match in NISA.
National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), a third-division professional league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) kicked off with a great opening in Oakland, California.
California United Strikers were registered with the NASL and the original core of the team came from United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) LA Wolves. The Oakland Roots previously competed in the National Premier Soccer League’s Founders Cup.
Before the match kicked off, the Oakland Roots hosted a block party to celebrate their inaugural game. With a packed crowd, it was a great night for the inaugural game.
This was a night to remember as many of the players on the field were playing their first professional soccer match, and it was in front of a screaming crowd in an electrifying atmosphere.
Known as a pathway to the professional game, the California United Strikers FC starting XI included six players who were developed in Southern California youth soccer clubs.
A total of 15 Cal United Strikers players are homegrown players from the LA, Orange County, and San Diego area.
Oakland Roots also reflects their hometown talent and rich heritage of sports teams. In fact, the Oakland Roots are looking to capitalize on their town’s love and loyalty of sports and capture fans from the Golden State Warriors‘ and the Raiders who are both abandoning the city.
Both NISA teams are looking to connect with their communities and grow the game of soccer in their areas.
Oakland Roots opened the match with a goal scored by Jack McInerney in the 19′ minute. McInerney scored another goal in the 30’ minute and earned one
Just before the half time whistle blew, Chris Klute found the back of the net for California United Strikers. Klute made a decisive run to the back post as Gonzo Salguero crossed the ball from the corner. With style and confidence, Klute slid the ball into the back of the net, earning his team’s first goal.
Klute’s first thought was his team needed more goals. “It felt good to score the first goal, but we were down 3-0,” said Klute. “I knew we had to score two more goals — at a minimum.”
“For us, it was the first half of our very first game of the season and there was a lot of nerves. We needed to get our feet wet in the first half. By the second half, it was a team effort and we battled to come back together,” said Texas-born Klute.
While the halftime score was 3-1, the beauty of sports is that the match is never over until the last whistle.
Walking into the locker room, Oakland Roots may have been elated while Cal United Strikers might have had to dig deep. The match was far from over and when Cal United walked back on the pitch, they were a different team – now a cohesive unit, the momentum started to turn.
“Everyone has their first college game, your first pro game … and we got caught in it,” said Cal United Strikers’ Head Coach Don Ebert. “The guys didn’t click in the first half, but they were upbeat at half time and turned it around, I was really happy with how they responded.”
Ebert’s belief in his players was clearly demonstrated and rewarded as the starting XI connected more in the second half.
In the 61st minute Kevin Jeon and Christian Thierjung came on and these two Orange County players who came out of the Strikers youth system had an immediate impact. Miguel Sanchez-Rincon came on also in the second half.
Gustavo Villalobos scored the second goal in the comeback.
“My goal wouldn’t have had as much meaning if Christian didn’t get that 3rd one in. It was a collective team effort,” said Villalobos who grew up in Hollywood, CA and trained with the Rampage FC.
“It was a fulfilling feeling to score and give the team the momentum and extra push to get to that equalizer,” said Villalobos. “I just kept thinking, keep pushing. The energy and momentum was on our side and you can just feel the third goal was coming.”
Orange County raised and Strikers Academy trained, Christian Thierjung entered the match in the 61st minute and made an impact from the first moment on the field. Thierjung scored the third goal against Oakland Roots solidified the point on the road for California United Strikers.
Thierjung said that from the moment he stepped on to the pitch, he kept thinking “Make a difference.”
“Whether it was scoring, assisting, or constantly making runs in behind, the thought that kept running through my head was to find a way to impact the game and create chances for a come back to either tie or win the match,” said Thierjung.
“Looking back on the match and our comeback, a lot of guys dug in deep,” sais Ebert. “The whole message at half time was that we need to play together.”
“The second half the whole team played well, defensive and offensively. Overall, it was a great game and a heck of a comeback,” said Ebert. “A great effort from the entire team.”
Man of the Match was Chris Klute. Recognized for his constant defensive and offensive presence on the field, Klute opened the scoring for his team.
“To see the guys not give up, even when the score was 3-1 at half time — that was my favorite part of the match,”Don Ebert, California United Strikers’ Head Coach
“NISA can ultimately be a launching platform for a local area talent that needs a first chance,” said Ebert. “Add
We have a gap in the soccer pyramid in America.Don Ebert, California United Strikers’ Head Coach
“There is no place for young guys who want to be pros to learn every day, make mistakes and really continue their development … I think NISA has a great opportunity to fill that nitch,” said Ebert.
The teams’ first NISA match ended in a draw, reflecting a
The California United Strikers’ starting XI for the game” Abraham Villon (Garden Grove, CA), Even Waldrep (Peoria, AZ), Duncan Capriotti (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA), Kyle O’Brien (Garden Grove, CA), James McGhee (Gilbert, AZ), Gustavo Villalobos (Hollywood, CA), Chris Klute (Grand Prairie, TX), Kifi Cabrera (Paramount, CA), Omar Nuño (Healdsburg, CA), Gonzo Salguero (Los Angeles, CA), Xavier Fuerte (Kauai, HI).
Subs: Christian Thierjung (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA), Kevin Jeon (Irvine, CA), Miguel Sanchez – Rincon (Inglewood, CA)
Subs not used: Michael Bryant (Portola Hills, CA) Steven Barrera (Bellflower, CA) Beto Navarro (Delano, CA), Andy Contreras (Santa Maria, CA).
California United Strikers Home Opening match is on September 22, at 4 PM at the Champions Soccer Stadium in Orange Country Great Park. For tickets, click here.