Separated by about 50 miles along Highway 101 in adjacent Southern California counties, Oxnard Guerreros FC and City of Angels FC may be natural rivals. Time will tell.
But the two Southwest Conference expansion teams have found initial life in the NPSL difficult this spring, combining for just three points over their first eight matches.
By the time they met Saturday night at Del Sol Park in Oxnard, they looked like teams headed in opposite directions.
Gabi Gonzalez had two goals and two assists, Raul Yepez had two goals and an assist and substitute Alex Garcia had a hat trick as Oxnard punished 10-man City of Angels, 11-1, in the teams’ first meeting.
“We needed this,” Oxnard coach Paulo Monlleo said. “It’s not that we’ve been playing bad. We’ve had little mistakes here and there that have cost us games.”
Oxnard showed no mercy, scoring 10 goals after City of Angels defender Jovian Amirkiai was sent off in the 18th minute for hauling down Yepez as the last man.
“To be honest, I’ve had coaches who have said, ‘You respect the other team by scoring,’ ” Yepez said. “If you start knocking the ball around, what does that mean? That you’re making fun of them?
“It’s a way to tell them, ‘We’re respecting you. If you let us, we’re going to keep scoring.”
Playing in just the sixth match of their brief history, the Guerreros set a franchise record for goals in a match that could stand for some time.
“It was a great moment,” said Garcia, who scored three goals 15 minutes apart in the second half.
Not even goalkeeper Jesus Cuellar saving two penalty kicks in the first half could keep City of Angels within sight.
“Things need to change,” coach Christopher Kotoyan said. “It’s not early anymore. It’s starting to be a little too late. The boys have been talked to. Let’s see how this locker room is going to be. But things need to change. They need to shape up.”
The San Fernando Valley-based club has now been outscored 17-1 after conceding a late winner to Orange County FC in a 4-3 loss on April 1.
“We’re as perplexed as you are,” Kotoyan said. “We were doing fine… then we lost in the last seconds to Orange County. It was 6-0 last week. I don’t even want to say the score this week. It’s unbelievable.”
Oxnard was reenergized by the return of attacker Raul Yepez, who hadn’t seen the field since suffering a hamstring injury shortly after scoring the first goal in franchise history last month.
“It’s a good feeling, coming back and getting the guys together,” Yepez said. “Hopefully it continues like this. We’re just getting the chemistry together, so we can build from here.”
Yepez delivered the cross from the left that Gonzalez headed home for the eighth-minute opener. He won the foul that saw Amirkiai sent packing 10 minutes later. After Cuellar saved Gonzalez’s low penalty kick, Yepez finished on the break to double the lead in the 27th minute.
“You saw how much he can help us with his speed,” Monlleo said.
The rout was on after Edwardo Gonzalez made it 3-0 in the 30th minute, curling home from 18 yard after City of Angels failed to clear a corne rkick, and Yepez made it 4-0 seconds after the second half kicked off.
Tarek Nazzal scored from the penalty spot to pull City of Angels within 4-1, but Garcia answered with his 15-minute hat trick.
“I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Garcia said.
Luis Rivera, Johnny Martinez and Jerry Orozco added three late goals as Oxnard piled on the pain. All 11 Guerreros goals were scored by local products, including nine by players who grew up in the City of Oxnard itself.
“There is so much potential in Oxnard,” Yepez said. “It’s just putting the right pieces together. It’s going to be a good season from here on out.”
Having pulled even on points with fifth-place SoCal FC, Oxnard will visit it on April 22.
“The first games were tough. Now we’re getting to know each other,” Yepez said.
City of Angels next visits Temecula FC at Linfield Christian School on April 29.
“It’s only up from here,” Kotoyan said.
Photo Credit: Joe Curley