NORCO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues defeated Antigua Barracuda FC 2-1 on Sunday night behind a solid team performance and the agile play of former Cudas forward Peter Byers, who doubled the home side’s lead late in the first half after Akeem Priestley had put them on top just after the half-hour mark. Antigua’s Justin Cochrane pulled one back late in the match, but it wasn’t enough for the visitors, as Los Angeles held on for a hard earned three points.
The Blues came out flying and nearly grabbed the lead in the 1st minute of play. Erlys Garcia found Byers with a long ball over the top of the defense and the 26-year-old’s close-range effort forced a nice reaction save from Cudas netminder Keita de Castro. Byers’ second outstanding opportunity of the game came in the 16th minute, the Antigua backline misplaying another long ball over the top and allowing the speedy striker to hit a precise shot that seemed destined for the net until it was parried wide by De Castro on a great diving save.
Los Angeles continued to press for the opener, and they were nearly rewarded in the 26th minute, Cameron Dunn coming within inches of connecting with Edwin Miranda’s shot attempt for what would have been an easy tap-in. The Blues’ prospects improved significantly just one minute later, as Antigua’s Christopher Harvey was beaten by Byers on Josh Tudela’s long ball into the attack and could only prevent the striker from streaking in on goal by tripping him up from behind, resulting in a straight red card.
The Blues’ attacking efforts finally paid off in the 34th minute of play, Priestley receiving the ball from Edwin Miranda and swinging in a dangerous cross from the right that had De Castro frozen on his line as several Blues players could have made contact with the ball in the area. Untouched by anyone, it sailed just inside the far post for the game’s opening goal.
Only five minutes later, Byers was finally rewarded for his outstanding work up top when he ran on to a long ball by Tudela, muscled off two defenders and toe-poked the ball past the onrushing De Castro and into the net for a 2-0 Los Angeles lead. The visitors nearly pulled one back in first-half stoppage time, forward Tamorley Thomas finding himself wide open deep inside the box and blasting a hard shot on target that was tipped wide in spectacular fashion by Blues netminder Amir Abedzadeh.
The fans at Norco’s Mustang Stadium saw a slow start to the second period, with neither team threatening the goal until a Priestley drive forced a diving stop by De Castro at the hour mark. It would remain the only noteworthy opportunity after the break until the visitors cut the deficit in half in the 90th minute. Theo Browne displayed some nice footwork on the left side of the penalty area before blasting a left-footed shot off the crossbar. The rebound was met by the head of Justin Cochrane for an easy finish into the open net.