The L.A. Blues are heading into a new market, taking their game to Riverside County, which they hope has a hunger for soccer that they can quench.
Head coach Charlie Naimo just wants to get back on the field, no matter where.
"I'm just looking forward to playing," said Naimo, whose Blues (3-1-1) take on the Charlotte Eagles in a USL Pro game Thursday evening at Centennial High School in Corona, the first of four scheduled games in the Inland Empire. "You drop your honme opener, and then you've got to wait 11 days to play? That stinks. You just want to get back on the horse."
The Blues were beaten, 1-0, by Antigua Barracuda on May 1 at Cal State Fullerton, and the statuses of Argentine playmaker Walter Gaitan and local forward Cesar Rivera, who weren't available in that one, are uncertain. Jamaican forward Akeem Priestley also is ailing, and Iranian right back Mehrshad Momeni is still awaiting receipt of his visa.
Forward Chukwudi Chijindu, on loan from Chivas USA, is expected to make his first start after a slow beginning to the campaign because of a hamstring injury.
"He looks good in training, his confidence is better, he needs to get good fitness," Naimo said. "I think Chuck could be a factor."
The Charlotte Eagles, a Christian side who also will face the Blues in the nightcap of a tripleheader Saturday at Cal State Fullerton, are a longtime USL powerhouse off to a 0-3-1 start.
"I'm not one who enjoys playing teams that are winless," Naimo said. "I know Charlotte is not a 0-3-1 team. They have a long history of making the playoffs, being hard-working, and I know we're going to get a better team. I've been warning the players don't look at their record."
The Blues are still awaiting word on how the USL Pro, a third-division league, will proceed after the ouster of three clubs from Puerto Rico, all from the Blues' division. United Soccer Leagues, the Tampa, Fla.-based group that runs the league, plans to announce changes to the league schedule and divisional realignment Thursday morning.
By scheduling games in Corona, the Blues are hoping to make inroads into an untapped market to the east.
"It'll be interesting to see if we can build more of a fanbase out there ...," Naimo said. "The further east we go, maybe we bring in fans who don't get out to [see the Galaxy or Chivas USA at] Home Depot Center."