Cal United Strikers v 1904FC Game Recap Round 3

Published Oct 21, 2019


Oct. 20, 2019

By Scott French

For California United Strikers FC

IRVINE -- Don Ebert wanted to see a few players who haven't had much if any time on the field this season for California United Strikers FC, and Sunday's home clash with San Diego 1904 FC -- something of an oddity on the National Independent Soccer Association slate -- seemed the best opportunity to do so.

There were, owing to a fluke of scheduling in the brief NISA Showcase season, no points available to Cal United, so the primary aim of its third meeting with San Diego 1904 FC was to prevent the visitors from claiming points as a tight West Coast race nears its finish.

Mission accomplished.

Omar Nuño provided an early lead, Andy Contreras doubled the advantage at the start of the second half, and Cal United (2-1-2) absorbed intense 1904 pressure most of the second half and scored on two late counterattacks to pull away to a 4-1 triumph at Great Park's Championship Stadium.

The late goals came from Michael Bryant and Christian Thierjung, the latter tallying for the fourth successive game, his fifth goal of the season.

Gustavo Villalobos, Cal United's chief playmaker, and Evan Waldrep assisted two goals apiece.

The victory, Cal United's third in four home games, doesn't count in the standings -- the club plays seven games, but the others play only six -- but the defeat is recorded for 1904 (2-3-0), which needs to win its finale Nov. 2 at home against LA Force (2-1-1) to advance to the Nov. 16 West Coast Championship.

Cal United can clinch a spot in that game with a victory Saturday against LA Force at Rio Hondo College. A victory or draw would give it the top spot in the West, and ostensibly a home game for the final, but defeat would drop the club to second place, needing LA to win or tie in San Diego.

“We train so hard, guys got to get their chances, and they have to get their chances in a game,” Ebert said when it was over. “I wanted to see some guys, I wanted to see some guys in different positions. ... I wanted to see guys and it wasn't pretty. [San Diego] played really good. They were all over us, but we scored and got a win.”

Ebert gave the day off to center back Xavier Fuerte, central midfielder Abraham Villon Jr. and winger Kevin Jeon, providing Contreras and center back Beto Navarro their first starts of the season and Nuño and Waldrep their first starts since a Sept. 14 loss at 1904. James McGhee got his first playing time since the Aug. 31 defeat at Oakland, the league opener, and fellow second-half substitute Cashion London saw his first action of the year.

All fared well, and Navarro and Waldrep, in particular, were standouts. Navarro didn't put a foot wrong and made several plays to defuse dangerous 1904 attacks. Waldrep was pivotal in midfield, and his work, especially, keyed the opening goal.

The boss was pleased with both.

“I threw Evan in too deep too quick [in the first two games], and that's on me,” Ebert said. “Once I pulled him out of the starting lineup and started to bring him [off the bench], he got back his rhythm. He's a great player. I just threw him in too deep too soon, but he's going to be a big part of what we do going forward.

“Beto is a 30-year-old veteran: been there, done it, seen it all. I told him, 'Just give us calmness, Beto,' and, listen, the legs may not be there like they were at 30 -- they never are -- but the mind [is strong]. His positioning, his composure, he didn't get beat once in a footrace, and [1904 has] three rabbits up there [on the forward line]. Being athletic is great, but you've got to have some brains, too.”

San Diego had the first good chance, in the fourth minute, but it didn't play out as hoped. Right back Dallin Cutler, a force going forward for 1904, failed to connect with an open Nelson Flores in front of the net, and goalkeeper Steven Barrera parried Eder Arreola's blast to the left post from the debris.

Cal United had a couple of early chances -- Nuño fired high on a free kick just outside the box in the 11th minute and right back Chris Klute went high from inside the box after a nifty sequence on the right.

Nuño struck, his second goal of the season, in the 18th minute. Waldrep's diagonal run from the left above the box set it up. He played a little give-and-go with Contreras at the top of the box, with Contreras back-heeling the ball onto his run, then found an open Omar at the left post.

Omar whiffed on the shot, but the ball fell underneath him. He had to regroup, get the ball onto his foot, then cut a step to the right to slice the ball past a retreating Cutler and goalkeeper Marcus Norris and inside the right post.

“Once you get a shot that's easy, you overthink it, and once it was on my foot, it just got under [my foot]” Nuño explained. “I was able to get the ball back, and I had to do a little bit of a turn, but that's what I know how to do -- I know how to turn -- and, thankfully, I put it in the back of the net.”

San Diego has two good chances as the first half wound down, but Barrera handled Lorenzo Ramirez Jr.'s half-volley from 16 yards following a corner kick in the 35th minute and Cutler's long-range attempt from the right that sailed away from the target.

Ebert made three changes at halftime to get a better counterattacking group on the field -- speedy striker Thierjung, in particular -- and Cal United made it 2-0 in the 52nd. Contreras linked on the break with Thierjung, who connected on the left flank with Gonzalo Salguero.

His cross to the near post was misplayed by defender Ozzie Ramos, and Villalobos swooped in to collect the ball, turned and fed it across the goalmouth for Contreras to finish, his second goal of the year.

San Diego coach Anatoly Rubtsov went to the bench right afterward and again, with three more changes, not quite 10 minutes later, and the game was 1904's most of the rest of the way.

Barrera made a brilliant save in the 69th, pawing away a fierce William Garton rebound at the left post after center back Adan Coronado blocked a Brandon Zambrano shot.

“It kind of pinged around ... and they had [Barton] around the 6-yard box,” Barrera said. “He had an open shot, smacked it first time and put it on frame. I just reacted as best as I could.”

Zambrano didn't miss a minute later as 1904 halved its deficit. Abdoulaye Cissoko headed Flores' corner kick off the crossbar, and Cal United midfielder Miguel Sanchez-Rincon nodded the ball toward the left flank. Zambrano was there and finished easily toward the right post.

San Diego continued to peck away at Cal United's compact defense without success, and Michael Bryant finished from Waldrep's through ball in the 83rd minute to boost the lead to 3-1. Thierjung tallied in the 90th, a simple finish after Villalobos beat a defender with a run along the right byline.

“The second half was a little bit different from the first half,” Thierjung said. “We had a couple of early chances, and, unfortunately, we weren't able to put those away, and then they were able to counter on the other end, and they put it in, and they made it kind of close at the end. Eventually, just needed to find that final through ball, and [we had] a great team effort there collectively.

Steven had some great saves to keep us with that lead, and I knew we were going to get some more goals. Our team is always good at creating opportunities, it's just about putting them away and taking care of business.”

Ebert said Cal United “got lucky.”

“Stevie made that one-handed save [on Garton], they missed two or three sitters, and then we got them,” he said.

He's expecting a tough game against LA Force.

“I think it's going to be really physical,” he said. “I told the guys we need to be ready for an ugly [game]. I think it's going to be a brutal game. That's what I'm prepared for. I'm not sure they're going to let us play our game.”



Cal United FC 4, San Diego 1904 FC 1

CU -- Omar Nuño (Evan Waldrep) 18

CU -- Andy Contreras (Gustavo Villalobos) 52

SD -- Brandon Zambrano 71

CU -- Michael Bryant (Evan Waldrep) 83

CU -- Christian Thierjung (Gustavo Villalobos) 90

Cal United FC: Steven Barrera; Chris Klute, Beto Navarro, Adan Coronado, Gonzalo Salguero (James McGhee, 68); Evan Waldrep, Duncan Capriotti (Michael Bryant, 46), Michael Sullivan (Miguel Sanchez-Rincon, 46); Gustavo Villalobos, Omar Nuño (Christian Thierjung, 46), Andy Contreras (Cashion London, 76).

San Diego 1904 FC: Marcus Norris; Dallin Cutler (Elmer Jack Villatoro, 61), Abdoulaye Cissoko (Hanif Wright, 86), Ozzie Ramos, Eder Arreola (Alexis Vilela, 61); William Garton; Christian Enriquez (Brandon Zambrano, 61, Felipe Liborio Jr.; Ernesto Espinoza, Lorenzo Ramirez Jr. (Kazuma Suzuki, 52), Nelson Flores.

Yellow cards: Ramirez 31, Contreras 48+, Wright 88, Velela 89.

Referee: Samantha Martinez. Att.: 1,620.