FULLERTON -- The 10th time was the charm for the L.A. Blues, at least at Cal State Fullerton, where on Friday night they finally claimed victory on their home field.
It took 14 months and a brilliant second-half goal from Bright Dike, who put on a clinic as the Blues took down the Dayton Dutch Lions, 1-0, before a tiny crowd at Titan Stadium.
The Blues went 0-4-2 in their primary venue last season -- one of the losses was in the U.S. Open Cup, as a road team against the Galaxy -- and were 0-2-1 this season heading into the first of a two-game series with Dayton.
“The curse is dead,” Blues coach Charlie Naimo exclaimed. “Now we can just play soccer. ... Now we can just get on with it, not come in here every day thinking, 'Are we cursed?' We won the game deservedly. We had all the chances in the game. ... We broke the curse, but we played a pretty good soccer game. That's what's important now.”
The Blues climbed above .500, at 4-3-2, while dominating the winless Dutch Lions (0-6-5). They should have scored three or four goals, and Dike, on loan from Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers, easily could have had a hat trick.
The goal he scored, in the 56th minute, was a beaut, and he hit the crossbar with a powerful drive just two minutes earlier. He might have had another in the first half, when Dayton goalkeeper Matt Williams' clearance caromed off the athletic striker and rolled back, slowly scooting just past the right post.
“That's what I came here to work on, is get that sharpness,” said Dike, who has three goals in five games since arriving in early May. “When you look at a game like that, you could have one or two, maybe even three. That's what I'm here for, and I'm in a good environment.”
Dike's pace and strength caused the Lions' defenders trouble all night, and he destroyed them on the goal. He took a pass several yards inside the midfield stripe, raced alone to the box, then fired across the goalmouth and inside the right post.
Dike made it all out of nothing, more or less, and most impressive were how he dealt with Dayton's defenders on the play, holding one off as he collected the pass -- he then turned and sprinting right past-- and expertly turning his body against another in the box, protecting the ball as he shot.
“I would have to give a lot of credit to Shayon [Jalayer, the Blues' top assistant coach],” Dike said, “because he definitely said that was one of my qualities I could really exploit defenses with, just getting low and cutting defenders and turning. That's something I've actually taken to heart since I've been here.”
Dike has seen limited first-team time with Portland, which sent him to the Blues for game action and seasoning, and the 25-year-old forward is loving it. He says “the best part” of being in Orange County is “playing soccer and loving soccer again,” that “in a professional atmosphere you don't see as much chemistry as you see with this team here,” and that his “desire, the confidence, my ability, everything is getting better.”
Said Naimo: “I'll be honest, he looked tired to me tonight, Bright did. Even tired, you saw the power that he has and the burst and the balance, and you just get him in space and he spins you. To win games, you need a special player like that. Bright's been a godsend for us.”
WORTH NOTING: UC Irvine product Irving Garcia also made a strong impression, giving a good two-way performance after he was challenged to put in a better effort defensively. ... Williams had to make two big saves, off a header by former Dayton star George Davis IV four minutes into the second half and, with a miraculous leaping parry, from Matt Fondy's close-range shot in the 86th. ... Dayton managed two chances. Blues goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh did well to cut off a through ball for Gibson Bardsley in the second minute, and Daniel Holowaty nodded Greg Preciado's cross past the right post in the 62nd. ... The teams meet again Sunday at 5 p.m.
Titan Stadium, Cal State Fullerton
L.A. Blues 1, Dayton Dutch Lions 0
LA -- Bright Dike 56
L.A. Blues: Amir Abedzadeh; Bryan Burke, Cory Miller, Erlys Garcia, Carlos Borja (Sunhyung Cho, 46); George Davis IV (Brian Farber, 71), Allan Russell, Irving Garcia (Ladislas Bushiri, 79), Ricky Waddell; Maykel Galindo (Matt Fondy, 76), Bright Dike. Unused subs: Ebrima Jatta, Jose Miranda, Israel Sesay.
Dayton Dutch Lions: Matt Williams; Greg Preciado, Nixon Dias, Mettin Copier, Shane Smith; Joel DeLass, Michael McNamara (Kyle Knotek, 61), Bret Jones (Toric Robinson, 67); Gibson Bardsley (Eric Kissinger, 59), Gerrit Jan Bartels (Daniel Holowaty, 46), Eli Garner (Akeem Priestley, 62). Unused subs: Corey Whisenhunt.
Yellow cards: Bardsley 2, Waddell 18, Dike 21, Russell 77.
Referee: Magic Berenji. Att.: c. 150.