ANAHEIM -- An inability to hold onto leads has defined the Anaheim Bolts' first season in the Professional Arena Soccer League. With their season in the balance, they crumpled again.
The local indoor club's postseason hopes ended Sunday night when it failed to hold onto a two-goal lead with 3 minutes, 45 seconds to go in regulation. A 12-11 overtime loss to Tijuana at Anaheim Convention Center wrapped up the Western Division's playoff race, giving the visiting Revolucion the final berth and sending the Bolts sprawling into the final week of the campaign.
“This one really hurt,” said Adriano de Lima, who scored four goals for the second successive game -- two of them were real beauties -- and nearly scored an overime winner. “[Conceding leads] is the story of our season, and we knew it. Somehow we didn't know how to stop it. ...
“I think managing that lead is what makes a championship team. I guess we're not ready for it.”
De Lima added two assists, Hugo Casillas and Juan Gonzalez scored hat tricks, and Paul Wright assisted three goals for the Bolts (6-8), who traded goals with Tijuana (9-6) deep into the third quarter -- Anaheim always ahead -- extended their advantage to two goals four times, then watched the Revolucion score the final three to win. Edgar Rivas netted the winner 1:42 into the extra period, on a rebound after a Tomislav Colic turnover.
“You look at the scoreboard, you've got a two-goal lead with four minutes to play? It's disheartening,” said head coach and managing partner Bernie Lilavois, whose team benefited from four power-play goals. “It's so much hard work. It sucks to end it this way.”
Tijuana was without their top scorer -- forward Cesar Romero, who is in camp (and expected to sign) with Chivas USA -- but Jose Juan Caballero netted five goals.
The Bolts, with a roster full of players with limited or no indoor experience prior to this season, gave away leads in six of their eight losses. They were ahead into the second half in five of those defeats and into the fourth quarter in four of them. They twice lost at home to Tijuana after leading in the final period.
“Hopefully, they learn from this kind of stuff,” Lilavois said. “Can't blame the effort from the guys. It is what it is, they're just inexperienced. And when you have those two- and three-goal leads, you've got to hold onto them indoors. In any sport. Inexperience, but they'll learn from it.”
Tijuana joins San Diego (14-0), which has won 32 straight games in all competitions, and Turlock (10-5) as the West's playoff teams. Detroit (11-3), Louisville (11-4) and Kansas (7-7) have clinched berths in the Eastern Division, with Cincinnati (6-9) and Illinois (6-10) fighting for the final spot. San Diego will be host for the March 9-10 final four in Del Mar.
The Bolts finish the season next Sunday with a doubleheader, separate admissions, at ACC against the Tacoma Stars.