The L.A. Blues' long, hard, at times debilitating first campaign fell well short of the goal, their season ending with Friday's loss at Harrisburg, Pa., in a USL Pro playoff opener.
The Blues won four of their first six matches and only four of their final 19 as a heavily back-loaded schedule, iffy team chemistry, struggles to finish chances and an abrupt alteration of style -- following Argentine playmaker Walter Gaitan's June departure -- conspired to derail a talented side.
They wrapped the season 8-8-9 for 33 points, the seventh-best total in the 12-team, third-division competition, and finished third in the National Division after having a way-outside shot to win the group heading into the final week of the regular season. Only three teams, not counting the trio of Puerto Rico-based clubs booted from the league in May for financial reasons, won fewer games than the Blues.
“Disappointing. But what can you say?” head coach Charlie Naimo said after the 3-2 defeat to the Harrisburg City Islanders, who will play Friday at Rochester in the National Division final. “Everybody enjoins to be successful, but at the end of the day, only one team can be.
“I think we could have been better, and I think we talent-wise were as good as most at times, we just couldn't make our own luck.”
Orlando City will be home against Richmond in Saturday's American Division title game. The winner will be home for the Sept. 3 final.
PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: Top-seeded Orlando City needed overtime to overcome the Charleston Battery in an American Division semifinal, getting goals in the extra period from Dennis Chin and Lewis Neal in the 3-1 victory. Former UCLA star Maxwell Griffin (Palmdale/Littlerock HS) scored his 10th of the season for the Floridians. ... Richmond goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale denied Chris Bagley after the first nine shooters converted, and the Kickers toppled the Wilmington Hammerheads, 5-4, on a penalty-kicks tiebreaker after a 0-0 draw. ... National Division winner Rochester Rhinos romped in their opener, destroying the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 4-0.
Last week's results (home teams listed first)
Harrisburg City Islanders 3 (Welker 34, 39, Ombiji 52), L.A. Blues 2 (Tudels 11, Garcia 46+)
Rochester Rhinos 4 (Rosenlund 10, Donatelli 28, Kissi 47, Cost 85), Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0
Wilmington Hammerheads 0, Richmond Kickers 0, OT
+ Richmond advances on penalties, 5-4
Orlando City 3 (Griffin 44, Chin 100, Neal 118), Charleston Battery 1 (Paterson 64), OT
This week's games (all times Pacific)
National: Harrisburg City Islanders at Rochester Rhinos, 4:30 p.m.
American: Richmond Kickers at Orlando City, 4:30 p.m.