Santa Clarita Storm opens the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) on the road Saturday traveling down the 5 freeway to take on Valley United. An instant El Clasico as both teams are friendly since most of the starting eleven and head coach for the Storm were in the Valley United youth system giving this tilt an emotional edge.
The Storm are probably still having nightmares about letting a sluggish start see the door sealed shut on their chance of a trophy after being eliminated from the UPSL Admiral cup in their last match. They will need to regroup facing a tough challenge in Valley United a team that knows them better than themselves.
Valley United’s late decision to join the UPSL this season opened the door for the Storm to sign their valuable midfield duo of Scott Landon and Andrew Tusaazemajja who would have stayed had the move been made earlier. The Storm will continue to rely on them as they prefer a 4-4-2 formation with Zach Kilindworth and Alex Barahona playing up front as the team’s strikers.
The Storm will need to slow down the Valley United offenses as they run a 4-5-1 formation with Tristan Korras leading the way after scoring seven goals in four matches to see Valley United advance to the third round of the Admiral Cup. Valley United will rely on Saragon Barkawi and Nick Saldivia in the midfield to counter attack scoring on Korras rebounds or finding open shots.
This match is not about revenge, yet a new chapter in Valley United head coach Laura Garcia’s illustrious career in the soccer world having a hand in helping most of the players on the field through the youth system and now facing them after having a direct impact on them growing into professionals however on the opposite sideline trying to beat her now.
“I just need them (Valley United) to play the game of soccer not kickball, keeping our head on straight because we all know each so I don’t want a grudge match but us playing correctly to win” said Garcia. “This is the one game I don’t want to play because I do know the players on the other team and they know us. I don’t want either one of us to win or lose. I love some of the guys on Storm and respect their manager and I think the feeling is mutual.”
Former Valley United youth coach Oscar Moreno will return to the North San Fernando with players and a coaching philosophy developed while working with the Valley United youth system for years before signing on to lead the Storm. This seems to be a huge advantage for Valley United who comes into the match well versed in the blueprint for the Storm where Moreno knows minimal about Valley United these days.
“It’s just another game for us, I’m super friendly with Laura but don’t know the names of her players or what they do” said Moreno. “We prepare for all the games the same. We practice hard, we always plan for players to be in good shape we don’t care who the opponent is we will beat up everybody put in front of us.”
These after Moreno’s men were dumped out of the Admiral cup last month unceremoniously, the Storm made few changes and is looking to improved play from Landon who Moreno said was recovering from injury. With not much else changing the Storm will look to get out to a fast start or face a slow league start that may see them finish at the bottom of the table.
At stake more than just UPSL points to move up the table but more importantly to players bragging rights as both teams’ continue to interact helping each other out any chance they get. This edition of El Classico will be played out at Heritage Christian High School (South Campus) 9825 Woodley Ave, Northridge with kick-off set for 3:30 p.m. PST and admission free to all.
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