FULLERTON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues lacked finishing but showed great fighting spirit Friday night, as they outshot the visiting Dayton Dutch Lions 15-5 but couldn’t find the net until Cesar Rivera’s penalty kick tied things up in stoppage time. George Davis had put the Dutch Lions on top early in the match, forcing Los Angeles to chase a 1-0 deficit in USL PRO play yet again.
The Blues created the first chance in the 6th minute of play, Josh Tudela laying the ball off to midfielder Shahryar Dastan, who hit a one-time shot from long range that forced Dayton goalkeeper Jesper Leerdam to a diving stop. However, it would be the visitors taking the lead just one minute later. Marvin van der Pluijm made a run down the left flank and picked out Davis just inside the area. The Dutch Lions’ top scorer beat two defenders on a skillful move and left Blues netminder Oscar Dautt without a chance as he blasted the ball inside the far post from close range.
The hosts should have equalized in the 11th minute, as Cesar Rivera released Chukwudi Chijindu inside the area and the 25-year-old found himself one-on-one with Leerdam, who came up with a fantastic foot save to keep the scores level. Los Angeles continued to press the issue, and they were nearly rewarded as debutant Peter Byers was brought down by Davis well outside the area and set up a free-kick opportunity for Rivera. The striker hit a wonderful right-footed shot towards the far post that was tipped wide by Leerdam on a full extension.
The Blues’ next opportunity came only two minutes later, Byers hitting a wicked dipping volley from inside the area that whistled just over the crossbar. Another two minutes later, Chijindu nearly scored for Los Angeles, as he headed just high on a Rivera corner kick whipped in from the right. The hosts continued their domination after the break, and it took the goalkeeping heroics of Dutch Lions halftime substitute Brian Visser to keep them off the board in the 51st minute of play.
Byers received the ball from Carlos Borja just inside the penalty area and displayed some nice juggling skills before hitting a thunderous half-volley that was kept out in spectacular fashion by the Dayton shot-stopper. Two minutes later, Mehrshad Momeni streaked down the right flank for Los Angeles and hit a low cross into the area that was met first-time at the doorstep by Byers, whose unfortunate mishit sent the ball flying well wide.
The Blues created two more quality chances around the hour mark. First Chijindu threaded the ball through to a streaking Borja in the box and the 23-year-old hit a hard shot from close range that was blocked by a well-positioned Visser. Then Israel Sesay found Chijindu on the right and the striker did well to dribble into the penalty area before firing a left-footed shot just over the crossbar.
Chijindu should have scored in the 73rd minute of play, as the ball fell to him within the five-yard box following a Rivera cross from the right and a collision involving several players, including Dayton netminder Visser. With the 24-year-old out of his goal, Chijindu stared at an open net, but only to see his attempted finish scraped off the line by defender Joe Tait.
The remainder of the match was played almost entirely in the Dutch Lions’ half of the field, but the visitors did a good job of bunkering up and denying the Blues any clear-cut chances until the closing stages. Los Angeles finally managed to tie things up in stoppage time, Chijindu being brought down in the box by Luke Magill and sending Rivera to the spot. After Tait was shown a straight red card for dissent, Rivera stepped up and converted comfortably to give the anxious Titan Stadium crowd something to cheer about late.