The message out of Fullerton is simple: Don't overlook Dayton.
Ohio's Dutch Lions haven't won a USL Pro game this year, and they only won two of 24 last year, but the L.A. Blues are leery as they prepare for a two-game set this weekend.
“It's not going to be easy,” Blues head coach Charlie Naimo told ESPN Los Angeles in advance of Friday night's 7:30 meeting at Cal State Fullerton. “The USL Pro is pretty tight this year. There are no blowouts. We've seen enough now and know [Dayton] is as good as anybody.”
Dayton, it should be noted, is 0-5-5. That makes the second-year club 2-21-11 in almost a season and a half -- numbers that hardly seem frightening -- but the number combination that matters most, that demonstrates what the Lions can do, is 2-1: the score in their U.S. Open Cup upset at Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew.
The Dutch Lions are 3-0 in the Open Cup and set for a quarterfinal showdown June 26 at Sporting Kansas City. They're 3-1-2 in all competitions over the past 3½ weeks -- the lone loss by a goal to second-place Charleston -- after halting the Rochester Rhinos' string of shutout victories with a 1-1 draw nearly a month ago.
The Blues (3-3-2), who are returning to action after a three-week break, won the season's first meeting May 11, a 1-0 decision in Ohio, and Dayton had the better of play for good stretches of the action. It's a possession team with some dynamism, as the name might suggest -- rather like the Blues.
“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,” Blues winger George Davis IV, who played last year for Dayton, told his club's website. “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.”
Former Chivas forward Maykel Galindo will play his first match at full strength after using the break to recover from a foot injury, and Naimo is looking forward to seeing him teamed up front with Bright Dike, who has tallied twice in four games since joining the Blues on loan from MLS's Portland Timbers.
“That could be a huge boost for us,” Naimo told his website, “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.”
The teams will play again Sunday at Cal State Fullerton, with a 5 p.m. kickoff.
WORTH NOTING: Davis was Dayton's leading scorer last year. Lions forward Akeem Priestley played with the Blues in 2011. ... Cal FC stars Danny and Diego Barrera have been training with the Blues. ... Still no word on Iranian defender Rahman Rezaei's arrival. A federal background check has lagged on for about two months. ... The Blues are off again next week, then head east for games June 28 at Charlotte, June 30 at Wilmington and July 3 at Richmond before returning to Fullerton for games July 6 and 8 against defending USL Pro champ Orlando City, which is again atop the standings. ... Charlotte will play at Fullerton on June 26, in an Open Cup quarterfinal against Chivas USA.