No combination of players and formations worked for the Fresno Fuego soccer team in Friday night's 3-1 loss to the Orange County Pateadores Blues at Chukchansi Park.
And that's a big problem for Fuego coach Scott Alcorn, whose team has started 1-3 in the Premier Development League.
"We have more questions than answers right now," Alcorn said.
He used six substitutes and tinkered with the formation multiple times trying to get something going against Orange County.
What started as a 4-3-3 shifted to a 4-5-1 and then to a 3-5-2, but every threat dried up in the Blues' penalty area.
"It's like in any sport. In baseball you got to give the pitchers a few runs to work with. In soccer you need to score goals. If we get one in the first half, we'll take some pressure off our backline," Alcorn said.
"We're not scoring enough goals in the run of play. Half of our goals this season are off set pieces."
That was the case Friday as the Fuego's only goal came on a direct kick by Jose Cuevas from 25 yards out in the 72nd minute.
"Our guys that we counted on in preseason haven't met expectations, so they have some soul-searching to do," Alcorn said. "We need to get some chemistry on the field and have someone separate themselves as a leader on this team."
He called out Cuevas, Paul Islas and Abraham Campos -- three ex-professionals who have yet to turn on the engine that led the Fuego to an 11-1-2 record last season before losing in the PDL Pacific Conference semifinals.
"It's very disappointing," Cuevas said. "With the players we have, we should be in the top of the table. The chemistry is just not 100% yet. It's disappointing."
The Fuego have given up nine goals in their past two games. On Wednesday, Sacramento Republic FC ousted Fresno 6-0 in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
On Friday, the Blues (2-2-1) scored in the 26th minute, catching the Fuego backfield sleeping on a handball restart as Mats Bjurman received the pass and sliced through the defense untouched before chipping the ball over charging goalkeeper Francisco Hernandez.
In the 52nd, Christian Gonzalez put the Blues ahead 2-0 on a shot across Fuego second-half goalkeeper Beau Diaz.
Orange County made it 3-0 in the 60th as Bjurman assisted Christian Thierjung, who slotted it near post for the finish.
Jonathan Colunga, a former Lindsay High standout now playing at Cal State Bakersfield, got his debut start for Fresno, playing the full 90 minutes.
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