Bernie Lilavois had never seen a team score 28 goals before -- that was the most impressive thing about his Anaheim Bolts' lopsided loss Saturday night in Tijuana -- but he could only shake his head at the figure. He knew his team had lost before it crossed the border.
A combination of injury, illness, suspension, prior commitments and border-document issues left Lilavois with a few regulars, a lot of reserves and not much hope, and the 28-7 defeat to the Revoluccion set several Professional Arena Soccer League records, none of them the sort the Bolts might relish.
Tijuana tied the league mark with 15 goals by halftime, scored an unprecedented eight in the second quarter and shattered the record for goals in a match, scoring six more than the late Denver Dynamite and Calgary United managed during the inaugural 2008-09 season.
“When I was in Stockton, we were loaded with veterans, and we had some high-scoring games, for sure,” said Lilavois, 41, a former indoor star -- nine teams, five leagues -- who suited up for the first time in two years. “But 28 I've never seen. It was interesting. It didn't really feel like 28, It was, 'Guys, hey, let's not look at the scoreboard, let's just play,' and every once in a while you'd look up and it's 17-4. 'Really?' ”
The loss was the first-year Bolts' fourth in a row, and Lilavois is looking to use it as a foundation for a reassessment of the club -- on and off the field -- before it returns to Professional Arena Soccer League action in two weeks. Among his considerations: whether he should return to the game, in earnest.
He was forced onto the field Saturday with 11 of the 13 most important players unavailable. Two were suspended after red cards in last weekend's loss at San Diego, two had commitments dating before the team was organized, two are hurt and another is sidelined by migraines. Three more lacked paperwork to cross back and forth at San Ysidro. Lilavois gave veteran Paul Wright the night off.
“There were so many factors, so I decided to play the reserves. give them some experience,” Lilavois said. “I knew what the result would be. I knew it would be a loss. I didn't think it would be that bad, but I knew we'd be shorthanded and knew we'd lose a game.
“I wanted to see how the young guys would do. We brought a lot of young guys, and they fought from the first whistle to the final buzzer. The result sucks, setting league records, but it is what it is. It adds fuel to the fire the next two weeks.”
Lilavois said he's planning a midseason training camp, bringing in a lot of prospective players and testing them with two-a-days all the while assessing the style of play and organizational issues, especially attendance and game operations. He said ticket sales have been brisk for the Jan. 27 game against unbeaten two-time defending champ San Diego Sockers at Anaheim Convention Center, with visiting fans largely responsible.
“These two weeks is our season,” Lilavois said. “It's going to make or break our season.”
Cesar Romero led Tijuana (4-4) with nine goals, tying the league record he set in December, and Gerardo Villa scored six goals wih four assists. Rafael Gaytan scored four and Brandon Young two for Anaheim (3-6).
The boss contributed an assist.
“It's always been in the back of my head that if the team ever needed an extra player, we have a built-in player here with me,” said Lilavois, who holds league records for single-season goals (40) and assists (28), set in 2008-09 with Stockton's California Cougars. “It felt pretty good. Falling on the turf hurts -- I forgot about that. ... I was a little sore [Sunday], but it kind of brought the fire back in me, the little playing time I had. It kick-started something a little bit.
“I'll be hard at work the next two weeks, and I'm also going to jump in that role as a player, see how I do in training camp and see what I can add to the team. At the end of the day, if I can help, I'll slot myself in there.”