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Writing the Winds

a Santa Ana Winds FC Blog

Winds Taken Down in Tight Battle, Moreno Valley FC Still Undefeated

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on October 2, 2016 4:48pm

This is what we expect from good football. This is what we expect from professionals. And this is the kind of score you get when two teams tooth and claw for every possession. During the weekend, undefeated divisional rival Moreno Valley FC came to duke it out in an important match for a top spot in the UPSL Southeast Division. And boy did they.

The game began as expected for the Santa Ana Winds: lightning fast. In just the 5th minute, the Winds were gifted a set piece off of a foul from Moreno Valley. Midfielder Cesar Coria received the free kick from the right side and dished it to Neilsen Ocampo right in front of the net. Before you could blink, the ball was in the back of the net. Winds up 1 – 0. Then play began to even out.

Possession change after possession change, the boys in burgundy began to retaliate. If the Winds got a set piece, so did Moreno Valley. If the Winds were tackling well, so was Moreno Valley FC. Both sides were pressuring the ball and challenging the defense. It seemed like luck would be a huge factor between the two, and at times it was. In the 10th minute, the Santa Ana side caught the first wind of luck. After gaining a free kick off of a foul, a Moreno Valley FC striker sunk one into the back of the net, yet for the lucky Winds, it was revoked off of a two-touch penalty. Still 1-0 for Santa Ana.

But all luck eventually runs out, and this game was no exception. Despite defending corners and set pieces really well, Winds FC was committing too many fouls and allowing too many chances. In the 29th minute, one of these fouls ended up changing the score after Fermin Villalba tripped up #14 from the visiting club inside the box. The Moreno Valley player was awarded a penalty kick against the Santa Ana keeper Adrian Urquizo. Unfortunately, Urquizo guessed left, but the striker shot right. Tie game.

The rest of the half went back and forth, with equal possession and fervor. All looked well, and the Winds were playing good team ball against an undefeated club projected to contend for the UPSL title. Despite Moreno Valley FC sneaking in the eventual game-winning goal in the second half, the results could have gone either way. What we can take away from this duel is that it largely came down to the referees of the match. Some calls were made, others weren’t, and if not for the penalty kick call, the evenness of the match would have reflected itself in a 1-1 draw.

With the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying match against in-city rivals La Máquina right around the corner, this level of competition could not have been more timely. In a telling match against a tough opponent, the Winds displayed what it takes to play at a high level, despite the loss.

Catch Santa Ana Winds FC’s next game against Anaheim Legacy FC at Lake Forest Sports Complex this Sunday, October 9 at 6:15pm.

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Winds FC Sets Franchise Record With 10-1 Victory Over Fontana International FC

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on September 15, 2016, 4:47pm

Football has no mercy. Which means it definitely has no mercy rule. This past weekend, Santa Ana Winds FC exploited that fact in a game against Fontana International SC at the Ralph M. Lewis Sports Complex in Fontana, CA. Even though not at home, it was the biggest margin of victory for the Winds in their franchise history, and it was the first time ever the club scored 10 goals in a single game. Normally, I would recap the highlights of the game, but in a 10 to 1 victory, it doesn’t make sense to focus on each goal scored. Instead, let us rejoice in the fact that the Winds played nearly perfect ball and reflect on the overall play of the game.

Ball Movement
One aspect of the game that has not been much of an issue for the squad this season has been their unselfishness. Six of the ten goals scored this game came off of assists. And two of the other goals came from opportunities created by smart team play. The midfielders constantly surveyed the field and the strikers were always looking to make the right play. Clean, point passing seemed like a priority for the Winds and no single player attempted to dominate in ball possession.

Defense
Winds FC has had a habit of allowing stoppable goals in the second half of each game. It has taken almost half a season, but it seems like they’ve begun to remedy that issue. Against Fontana, the defenders protected the keeper better than we’ve seen all season. Each time the ball came into their territory they made the right play. Whether it needed to be cleared, held, given to the keeper, or passed up field, the right call was made on just about every possession. The one exception happened to be Fontana’s only goal in the 27th minute, but it was honestly because of Fontana’s only shining moment of the game. They scored on a series of volleys that just happened to beat Santa Ana’s defenders. It was the classic case of good defense, better offense.

Energy
The Santa Ana Winds are making a name for themselves with their fast-paced style of play. It can be a little better controlled at times, but overall it has been the driving force for the team. Sometimes it leads to turnovers, but it often leads to breakaways. This specific win demonstrated exactly how commanding they can be. For instance, back-to-back goals in the 36th and 41st minutes both came off of passes from midfield to a sprinting forward. In the first instance, Carlos Andrade was able to juke the opposing striker after sprinting up the left field chasing a deep pass by Zaid Khalil. After catching up to the ball, Andrade beat yet another defender to create the opportunity for a cross into the back of the net. The second example went similarly when Andrade returned the favor to Khalil with a deep pass that Khalil was able to chase down. Khalil brought it up, juked a diving defender, and created a 1-v-1 with the goalkeeper for a seamless goal. 

Fontana International SC isn’t exactly the toughest competition the Winds will face, especially with the first qualifying rounds of the U.S. Lamar Hunt Open Cup coming up this weekend, but the Winds did exactly what they were supposed to do against lower-ranked competition. They revealed that they can play as a premier unit, seemingly improving with every game, but only time will tell how dominant they will become.

Catch Santa Ana Winds FC in their U.S. OPEN CUP QUALIFYING GAME this Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 6:30pm in Colton, CA. The game features Santa Ana as the home side and La Habra City FC as the visitors at Colton High School.

Santa Ana Winds Cruise to 5-2 Victory Over Neighboring OC Crew SC

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on August 30, 2016, 11:15am

It was a busy night at Lake Forest Sports Complex as OC Crew SC hosted Santa Ana Winds FC on familiar soil. I say familiar for a couple reasons: they share this same field for select home games, and they’ve been doing so for quite some time. In what’s considered a mild rivalry, both Santa Ana Winds FC and the home side from Irvine, CA were a few of the first teams to enter into the United Premier Soccer League from its 2011 inception. These two clubs are based in neighboring cities, adding a little territorial heat to the rivalry which, of course, makes these games competitive. And just to throw a little spice into the mix, both of these teams are in need of points, for one reason or another.

This match was somewhat of a typical Santa Ana game. Everything of importance happened in the first half. The contest began with the Winds down a man due to roster complications. OC Crew SC had a solid opportunity to dominate early, but they didn’t. Winds FC always enters into their games with strong energetic bursts and rapid movement on and off the ball. That’s what helped keep pace with the leveraged home side, but in this case, they hindered all offensive attempts with stifling defense to make up for their missing teammate. For the first quarter of the game, we basically saw high pressure from the OC Crew, and the kind of defense we have been hoping for all season with the Winds. They allowed less shots, and even on the shots they allowed, each one was contested. 

Then the goals started rolling in. In the 28th minute, forward Zaid Khalil scored the first goal of the game off of a cross from midfielder Carlos Andrade. Andrade led the defenders to the right side of the goal, freeing up Khalil just enough to receive a quick pass to strike into the upper left corner of the net. At this point, the Santa Ana club was at full strength with the lead and the entrance of their 11th man. The Winds favored the left side of the net yet again in the 34th minute. Ruben Menjivar was bringing the ball up the pitch when his field vision kicked in. Seeing the opportunity, he drove a deep ball from centerfield to Saul Sandoval who served as a good distraction for the defense; he quickly dished it past the defenders to Neilsen Ocampo for goal number two of the half.

Santa Ana had turned the advantage tables around, dominating possession the second their 11th man stepped on the field. At this point, things were getting ugly for the Crew. In the 38th minute, Zaid Khalil caught fire again, this time taking advantage of some sleepy goalkeeping. As Khalil was bringing the ball upfield, the keeper was playing too far from his post, leaving it available for a 30-foot rainbow chip-in from Khalil. It soared over the keeper and defenders, gently laying itself into the back of the net as a fun goal for Santa Ana Winds FC, but an embarrassing one for OC Crew SC. To top it off, Zaid took it to the same goalie again 10 minutes later to put the Winds up four to nothing. He was at a disadvantage being double-teamed by the Crew’s defense, yet managed to get close enough to bring the keeper out towards him. A little mix of quick feet and luck brought Irvine’s keeper to the floor in an attempt to dive on the ball, but Khalil juked it away from him just in time. All that remained were two defenders, Khalil with the ball, and an empty net. You guessed it! Hat trick for Zaid Khalil. End of the half.

Now at this point in the season, the Winds have become quite predictable. Initially, I was on their case about poor defense, and they’ve seemed to pick that up quite well, but now it comes to strength and conditioning. Even though they are beasts on the offensive side of the ball, they seem to run out of gas during the second half, most notably during the final 15 minutes of each game. In the 68th minute, they picked up their fifth and final goal from a cross by Ruben Menjivar, but conceded two relatively stoppable goals in the 79th and 85th minutes to end the game at five to two. It’s a minor problem (for now) that has occurred in the last few games this season. Cases in point: Last game versus Inland Empire FC saw a similar result with two late goals, and an eerily similar game versus Toros Neza USA saw some late goals going in. It seems like more focused strength and conditioning with the squad is needed, because other teams in the future won’t be so forgiving, especially with the Admiral Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup right around the corner.

Catch your favorite local club Santa Ana Winds FC this upcoming Saturday September 3, 2016 as they take on Avalanche FC in the battle for Southeast Divison’s third place. Game time and location TBD. Stay tuned!

Santa Ana Winds FC weathers away frustrated Inland Empire FC in 6-3 Win

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on August 24, 2016, 10:06pm

The Santa Ana Winds have gone streaking… in the good way. This past Sunday at their alternate home field, Lake Forest Sports Complex, they battled it out with visiting Inland Empire FC and came away with a crucial three points; making that two victories in a row. But the visiting side made sure it wasn’t all fun and games, as heated players, questionable calls, and rough play made their way into this match. Here’s how it all went down:

As we’ve grown accustomed to as Winds FC fans, Santa Ana came out swinging right from the start. By the 4th minute, they had already created two strong shots on goal and weren’t allowing Inland Empire any time with the ball. So it’s no surprise that the Winds drew first blood when center fielder Ruben Menjivar scored in just the 16th minute. It was an offensive thing of beauty; Brian Rodriguez took control of the ball, drew it up the middle bringing the center and left backs in for the double-team, and dished it to Menjivar right before the challenge. At that point, Menjivar’s only test was a frantic goalkeeper rushing in, whom he beat out with a quick rainbow chip in.

Five minutes later, however, #20 for the visiting side took advantage of some defensive miscommunication from the Winds by outrunning his defender on a switch. Once passed the mismatched defensive player, the IEFC striker dribbled a shot right under Santa Ana’s goalkeeper, Adrian Urquizo.

Fortunately for the Winds they have a resilient club. When a team scores on them, they always seem to get one right back, and in this case, their lightning struck the same place multiple times. In the 26th minute, Menjivar crossed a ball from left of the opponent’s net right to the unforgiving boot of Saul Sandoval; Winds up 2 to 1. Then began the storm of emotions. Inland Empire had some things to say to the referee. Bickering was shared between one of their players and the level-headed referee. It was clear the relentless attacks of the Winds were getting to them. To make it worse, only six minutes later Carlos Andrade swiftly set up Zaid Khalil with a tricky back pass, leading to a sharp cross by Khalil and a third goal for the Winds. 

Like clockwork, six more minutes later in the 39th, the storm raged on. Complaints by a player, crowd members retorting, ref’s hand hovering over his penalty cards, and general frustration from the visiting side all foreshadowed the hard foul that came against forward Brian Rodriguez of the Santa Ana Winds. While bursting through a crowd of yellow jerseys, Rodriguez almost reached the goalie’s box until he was unnecessarily knocked over in what appeared to be an intentional hard foul. Whether out of frustration or as a last resort, it ended up as a penalty kick in which Rodriguez won; 4 to 1 Santa Ana.

Another goal poured in as Rodriguez scored yet again in the 48th minute when a shot off of the post from Carlos Andrade’s volley during a corner kick deflected near Rodriguez. The forward scooped up a quick rebound and fired it to the back of the net for the fifth goal by the home side. With this strong lead, the Winds began to let up. The offensive energy spent for the first five goals definitely took its toll as you could visibly see them running out of gas. Inland Empire FC took advantage of the moment and whipped up a few goals of their own but it was too far gone. Within the last 10 minutes of the game, they managed to bring it within two, but Santa Ana’s stellar offense answered back with one more, and the clock was sprinting to the finish.

Overall, the Winds played as well on both sides of the ball as they have in any of their other games this season. They reacted well to shots on goal. They cleared the ball when in danger. Their offense was their offense as usual. They played excellent team ball, and, most importantly, they played with daring confidence in the face of rage. 

Come watch the Winds battle for third place this Sunday at Lake Forest Sports Complex when old time rivals OC Crew SC attempt to put a damper on Santa Ana Winds FC’s current streak. The game will begin at 6:30pm (PDT) on Field A. 

The Winds Pile It On the Toros in 7-4 Victory

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on August 7, 2016, 11:36pm

The Santa Ana Winds had some pent up frustrations from last week’s loss against La Máquina FC, and they were looking for a scapegoat to take it out on. The lucky team on target for this vengeful venting was Toros Neza USA hailing from Corona, CA.

Santa Ana’s club was without its usual lineup this match due to travel issues, which forced coach Jose Lopez to start in lieu of their missing right-midfielder to fill in the 11-man lineup. Despite the changes, the home side displayed the dynamic offense that we’ve seen from them thus far in the UPSL Summer Season 2016.

Right off the bat, the Winds asserted themselves into the dominant role between the two teams. Saul Sandoval, Santa Ana’s foward, got the Winds on the board in the 4th minute with a chip-in over the opposing goalkeeper after a quick pass and assist from left-midfielder Carlos Andrade. The Winds were dominating both sides of the ball to start the duel and all signs pointed north for the home side. 

Donning the number 20 for the match, coach Jose Lopez had his shining moment in the 16th minute after Andrade dished his second assist of the game to him. With Andrade rushing in from the left and taking on two defenders, Lopez had a clear cut to the goal from the right. As the goalkeeper dove towards Andrade to disallow any shot or pass attempt, Andrade reacted well and placed the ball perfectly for Jose to sink into the net.

Outplayed, the Toros were simply not quick enough to contend in the game. The few chances they had were marred by whistles of offside calls and when one player became open, bad passes ruined solid opportunities. Regardless, Santa Ana mishandled the mismatch at times and allowed a stoppable goal in the 26th minute. The reason I say stoppable is because of how it happened. The club from Corona swung and missed at a cross from the left side of the goal, giving the Winds chances to recover the ball; yet a soft block put it back at the feet of the Toros for a shot that just missed off of the post. Luckily for Corona, it lined up soundly for a rebound goal and voila: two to one.

But Santa Ana Winds FC still looked strong and determined to bulldoze over their opponents. Firing on all cylinders, their next goal came right before the break in the 41st minute, when forward Zaid Khalil collapsed the left-side defense on his own and slipped one in just under the left side of the goalie. The numbers were just pouring in, and the Winds were feeling confident going into the half-time break.

In the second half, Andrade made his presence on the field known once more, but instead of an assist, he added a goal to his stat sheet in the 47th minute. After outrunning two defenders, he took the ball up from mid-left field to fire it across into the right side of the net for the first score of the half. But this is where things began to become sloppy for Santa Ana.

Up four to one, their frustrations began to pick at them. The same issues we have seen in previous matches began to reemerge. Miscommunications and offensive-minded play began to give way to easy goals and the Toros took advantage of it. Despite Saul Sandoval’s back-to-back goals in the 65th and 71st minutes (leading to his hat trick in the game), the Santa Ana defense started to go awry. The double-edge sword of their vindictive play stirred them into getting beaten for three goals in the last 30 minutes of stoppage time. It appeared as if the focus became solely on scoring and assuming the weaker Toros Neza USA couldn’t retaliate, but that assumption is never reliable in sports, nor was it reliable in this match.

If you outscore an opponent, you win. It’s as simple as that, but against a lower-ranked team, defense tells all. If you can’t display your defensive machismo against a team under you, then how can you against a team above? Santa Ana Winds FC had a chance to make this game a blowout, yet failed to protect the goal and conceded four easy goals. Maybe they put too much focus on getting back on scoring track after last week’s loss? Maybe it was just the Toros getting lucky? Or maybe Winds FC was fatigued? Whatever it was, the Winds are proven offensive talent, but need to play defense for all 90 minutes.

Santa Ana Winds FC looks to jump up in the standings this upcoming Saturday at Lake Forest Sports Complex against Strikers FC from their neighboring city of Irvine. Catch the game on Field A at 8:00pm (PDT).

What We Learned from the Santa Ana Derby Summer ’16

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on August 4, 2016, 10:15pm

This past Saturday, Santa Ana had a civil war… on the soccer field. Two of the city’s best teams went head to head in what is known as the Santa Ana Derby. Here are some things we learned as Santa Ana Winds FC took on in-city rivals La Máquina FC at SAC Soccer Field:

Offense for the Winds!
The Santa Ana Winds can score goals. There’s no question about that. Though it’s early in the UPSL Summer Season, they currently rank fourth in ‘Goals For’ in the Southeast division. The only other teams leading them in that category have a combined .777 win percentage. Talk about some serious competition. But it’s not just the fact that they can find ways to score goals, it’s partially how they do it. In this 1-5 loss, the Winds took on arguably the best team in the league. Yet, for the third straight game, they came out firing and not only put themselves on the board, but held a lead in the first half. That’s not something many teams can do against the self-proclaimed “machine.” Still, the Winds displayed an unrelenting energy and youthful vigor with possession of the ball. But let’s repeat the latter half of that sentence one more time for clarification–with possession of the ball. With that being the operative phrase here, we are lead to our next point…

Defense, Defense, Defense
Maybe saying it three times aloud can summon the inner defensive demons of this team, but we shouldn’t hold our breath. As demonstrated in the previous game against Newcastle United FC, the Winds can get a bit lackadaisical on the defensive end when facing a talented offense. Combine that with the leading scorers in the league in La Máquina FC, and you’re in for a real challenge. While the Winds emanate a sense of urgency when defending, at times the urgency begins to turn to panic, which then leads to missed clearances, soft passes, and turnovers. La Máquina exploited this by converting on multiple second chance opportunities in the 54th, 58th, and 82nd minutes respectively. Granted The Machine is a proven offensive powerhouse, but with a young, energetic squad, Santa Ana Winds FC has the tools for a solid defense, they just need to learn to sharpen them.

Don’t Feed the Machine
La Máquina FC is a beast. Anywhere you turn there’s a defender ready to steal, tackle, disrupt, block, juke, clear, pressure… you name it. They’re fast. And quick. That may seem redundant but they epitomize why the words have separate meanings. Since they’re fast, they can beat you down the stretch from goal to goal, and because they’re quick, they can purloin possession from you if a pass is even slightly inaccurate. On the other foot, La Máquina (Spanish for “The Machine,” if not obvious by now) hustles, fighting to retain every possession with strong passing and solid off-ball movement. They show they want it more, and they take what they want. It’s no wonder that only two months ago this same team not only played in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup against the LA Galaxy, but exhibited an MLS-level performance in that game. As Santa Ana Winds FC fans, we can rejoice in the fact that we share a division with a team of this caliber, and we’re only a win away from outranking them in the current standings.

Watch your Santa Ana Winds FC get back on track this Saturday, August 6th, 2016 at Lake Forest Sports Complex as they battle it out against the Toros Neza USA from Corona, CA. Kickoff begins at 6:30pm (PT).

Santa Ana Winds FC Shows Offensive Prowess, Unseasoned Defense in 4-4 Draw

By Pawl Espinoza Twitter: @pawlespinoza on July 26, 2016, 8:33pm

Fresh off of a 4-nil win in the club’s home opener of the UPSL Summer Season 2016, the Santa Ana Winds looked to continue their dominant scoring as they took on the equally determined Newcastle United FC at SAC Soccer Field.

The match began poorly for the Winds as Newcastle United came out with high energy and quick ball movement. The visiting team from Upland, CA demonstrated their fast-paced style of play, which lead to utter dominance in possession for the first quarter of the game.

In the 25th minute, Newcastle United FC took advantage of the high defensive line played by the Winds. With the Santa Ana side in full attack mode, a simple clearance pass from a Newcastle defender to one of their forwards allowed them to sneak by the defenders playing a bit too close to the visitor’s side. By bringing the ball up left field and forcing the goalkeeper to advance, a simple chip in over the keeper led to the first goal of the game. 

Then began the rollercoaster. Newcastle’s team started to slow its roll as the young Santa Ana team upped their offensive energy and relentless attacks. In the 45th minute, a defender from the opponent’s side committed a foul which led to a set piece for the Winds. The shot on goal was blocked but put back into play only for Winds defender Juma Abdul-Razzaq to rebound it into the back of the net for Santa Ana’s first goal of the match.

The referee added six minutes to the clock, but the Winds only needed three to score again. In the 48th minute of the half, striker Brian Rodriguez took the seemingly tired defenders of Newcastle for a dance to the right of their post where he was able to clip the ball right under the diving goalkeeper. At this point, the Santa Ana Winds looked at an advantage as the referee blew his whistle for the half.

Coming into the second half with the lead, the Winds kept the ball rolling. In the 50th minute, midfielder Henry Alfredo Arivas took possession of the ball, brushed past a central defender, juked right of the goal and crossed the ball in past a diving goalkeeper. But the high of the rollercoaster was seeing its end, and the fresh legs of Newcastle took advantage of the faulty defense just four minutes later.

Another high line of defense by the Winds underestimated the explosiveness of the Newcastle strikers, which led to an eerily similar defensive collapse and conceded goal in the 54th minute of the game. Four minutes later, in the 60th minute, more defensive struggles manifested themselves in another goal for Newcastle United FC. The Winds played lackadaisical defense: limited ball movement, failure to clear the ball from the box, and careless passing.

But all rollercoasters have ups and downs, and this one was no exception. After back-to-back goals from Newcastle, the Winds answered back with a goal from Carlos Andrade in the 67th minute. The team demonstrated its unselfishness with great ball movement that led to a strong finish under the right side of the opposing goalkeeper. All seemed in the bag at this point.

Newcastle was showing signs of restlessness, but it’s never over until it’s over. In the 90th minute, the Winds appeared to be on target for a second straight victory, but right at the end of stoppage time they committed a grave error. A careless foul led to a set piece for the opposing side, and though the free kick was blocked by the diving Adrian Urquizo of the Winds, the rebound fell straight into Newcastle United FC’s hands and was redirected into the back of the net for the final goal of the game.

Four to Four. Full Time. Still unbeaten, you can catch the Santa Ana Winds at their next match as they take on in-city rivals La Maquina FC at SAC Soccer Field this Saturday July 30, 2016 at 5pm (PT).

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