Soccer News: Blues Anxious to Take on Dayton After Three-Week Break
Expect stern soccer test in back-to-back meetings with in-form visitors
There was an air of anxious anticipation about the Blues training sessions this week, as the Fullerton-based club returns to USL PRO action this coming Friday and Sunday against the visiting Dayton Dutch Lions, following a three-week span without any competitive matches. Two victories would see Head Coach Charlie Naimo’s men remain in close pursuit of the league’s leading trio of Orlando City, Rochester and Charleston.
Despite their opponents sitting in last place in the USL PRO standings, both Naimo and former Dutch Lions attacker George Davis IV cautioned against underestimating the Ohio-based side. Recent contests saw them defeat an MLS team en route to reaching the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals and only dropping one of their previous three league fixtures.
“We haven’t been challenged in a meaningful match for a while, so we might be a little rusty in the early stages against Dayton,” Naimo offered. “That said, we’ve been working to improve in key areas during the time off and the guys are really motivated to play a game now. For three weeks, we’ve been looking at the table without any chance of climbing. That has made everybody extremely hungry for a win.”
Naimo went on to acknowledge that earning six points against the Dutch Lions will be far from an easy task. Head Coach Ivar van Dinteren’s squad has been in impressive form of late, knocking off MLS outfit Columbus Crew in the U.S. Open Cup before defeating the Premier Development League’s (PDL) Michigan Bucks to earn a clash with another MLS team, Sporting Kansas City, in the quarterfinals.
In addition, Dayton battled USL PRO second-place side Rochester Rhinos to a 2-2 draw and fell to the third-place Charleston Battery by the closest of margins, 1-0. Less than a week ago, the Dutch Lions then took a 1-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the 81st minute of the two teams’ contest, but only to be denied their first victory of the campaign when Shintaro Harah scored the equalizer in the game’s closing stages.
“I expect a Dayton team that is as hungry as us and confident after their strong performances of the past few weeks,” Naimo said. “It speaks volumes that the only game they lost in that entire span was by one goal and against one of the top two teams in the league. We’re taking them extremely seriously and have been preparing for two tough matches.”
The sentiment was echoed by Davis, whose breakout season with the Dutch Lions in 2011 saw him find the net 7 times and add 2 assists, good for a USL PRO top-ten finish in both goals scored and points registered. Having thus caught the attention of Naimo and the rest of the Blues coaches, the Ohio native agreed to terms in January and made the move toSouthern California
“Thinking of Dayton, the first thing that comes to mind is the Dutch philosophy of keeping possession and knocking the ball around, which is somewhat similar to ours,” the skillful attacker said. “That seems to have worked really well for them lately, given the run they’re on with those Open Cup wins and having been so tough to beat in the league.
“When you add in the fact that they haven’t won a league game, that makes them very dangerous. They have every reason to believe in themselves and at the same time are dying to get their first three points, which is a powerful combination. That means we have to play our best soccer and can’t underestimate them just because they’re at the bottom of the table.”
Davis identified a potential tendency in the Dutch Lions’ opening ten matches of the season that reminded him of his 2011 campaign with the side.
“We had quite a few tough results last year, giving games away in the final five to ten minutes,” he recalled. “That seems to have been going on again this year for Dayton, which means they could be a very successful team with that final bit of concentration or luck. Overall, it seems that there’s a very good mentality to them right now – more of a belief and a will to win. We definitely can’t take them lightly.”
Davis and Naimo each closed their respective previews of the upcoming matches on a positive note, the Blues Head Coach focusing on the two most recent additions to the roster, a pair of MLS-caliber players who are expected to complement each other well up top. While on-loan Portland Timber Bright Dike already has two goals and an assist in four games with the Blues, former Chivas USA man Maykel Galindo finally seems fully recovered from a nagging foot injury.
“The Dayton game should be the first time we’re seeing a healthy Galindo pairing up with Dike,” Naimo said. “That could be a huge boost for us because it means we can be dangerous at any given moment and opposing teams have to be constantly on their toes. Since playing our first match as a pro team over a year ago, I don’t think we’ve ever had an attack that was as capable of catching other teams by surprise.”
Davis’s final word of caution didn’t keep him from drawing an overall positive conclusion in his look ahead to the two-game home stand.
“Last year, when I was still with Dayton, we came here and gave the Blues a good game,” he recalled. “This year (the Dutch Lions) still have their core and have brought in some new young players that are promising. That said, we primarily have to focus on our game and utilize our strengths. If we do that, I think we will be successful.”
Tickets for the Blues’ meetings with the visiting Dayton Dutch Lions this coming Friday and Sunday, June 15 and June 17 (7.30 p.m. PT and 5 p.m. PT, respectively), are $10 and may be purchased by calling 714-738-8011 or by visiting www.labluesprosoccer.com.
Friday is $3 Beer Night at Fullerton’s Titan Stadium, meaning Bud and Bud Light will be just $3 during pregame, halftime and specific stretches of the match, as well as after every goal scored. For Sunday’s Father’s Day fixture, Blues fans will receive free admission for their Dad with the purchase of a $10 ticket.