The Seals re-entered the USL after a 6 year break, with a come-from-behind win that was as emotional as it was dramatic. After going down 2 goals in the first half against the Fresno Fuego, one of the strongest members of the PDL, the Seals came back in the second half. John Colan scored his first goal mid-way in the half. The Seals kept the pressure up even though Fresno did not back off its relentless attack. Jovan Milojevich rose about the crowd in front of the goal with about 4 minutes remaining in the game to score the second goal off a set piece from the right corner. The stage was set for John Colan's second and winning goal when a Fuego defender tripped up a Seals attacker just outside the 18. Colan deftly slotted the ball over the Fuego line and into the net. Thirty seconds later the referee whistled the game to an end.
This come-from-behind win took place at Fuego's home field in Visalia on a very warm evening. Shani Simpson said it was all about conditioning. Coach Simpson said "I think there was something more, perhaps a statement by those who wore the Seals jersey for the first time in 6 years." The team was somewhat crippled going into this game. Five players who had committed to go to this game informed us with very short notice that they couldn't make it. Luke Tyburski, who had just arrived from Okalahoma, was one of the four field players on the bench. The game ended with 3 out of the four starting back line on the bench for one reason or another and Luke Tyburski playing in the back. Zach Toran, a midfielder, with limited defensive experience, also played in the back. Even with these changes, the team played as if it made no difference. The commitment to attack Fuego's goal was the Seals reward in the end.
Rich Halvorsen came up big many times winning balls that were sent into the middle of the Seals box and cleared a shot off the line that saved a goal. Stefan Frei came up with an authoritative save that made a clear statement that scoring off the Seals was going to require more than what the Fuego had to offer.
Nelson Diaz sparked the second half attack with determined intensity. Shani and Rawley Masaniai worked up and down the field trying to keep the defensive and offensive units linked. John Carson kept the left flank alive with attacking runs and crosses. In the end it was the magic of Colan and Milojevich that made the difference. The entire team worked hard and determined to gain the win.
This first win served double duty. It means that the Seals win their first league match and their first Open Cup qualifier. They did it with the proverbial glue and bailing wire. "We fully expect that as the season progresses that the roster is better equipped to take on the challenges of our opponents," Said Simpson. "The standard for excellence, intensity, inspiration and the desire to win has been set."
The Seals next home game will be played at the College of Alameda, Saturday May 13th at 2:00pm. Tickets may be purchased online at www.oursfseals.com, or at the gate.