On an amiable warm and sunny Sunday afternoon at Buchanan High, the Fresno Fuego got its first taste of preseason action as the soccer club prepares for its 13th season in the Premier Development League.
Featuring a mixture of faces new and old — including veteran standout Milton Blanco — Fresno fell 3-2 against the San Jose Earthquakes U23 squad in front of about 300 fans.
The match was played over three 30-minute periods with both sides making their fair share of substitutions and formation changes to test out prospects for the 2015 season and beyond.
Despite the outcome, the friendly left Fresno head coach Scott Alcorn content with the club’s younger prospects.
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“This was perfect for us,” said Alcorn, who begins his ninth season with the Fuego. “We got to see some young players in some good spots. Some of these guys were trialists for us, who aren’t on our roster, but it was a great chance to see them.”
Among those that left hearty impressions on the coaching staff were forward Josue Barajas of Turlock, and local products Christian Chaney (Bullard High, Fresno City) and Bee 2011 Player of the Year J.P. Medina (Buchanan High, UC Riverside/Chico State).
Barajas, who just wrapped up his third season playing at Cal State Stanislaus, scored Fresno’s first goal in the 14th minute when his shot barreled through the hands of the San Jose goalie and inside the left post to tie the score at 1.
Chaney and Medina came on as reserves and fueled the Fuego to within one of San Jose. Medina slotted home a penalty kick in the 87th minute in what would be the match’s final goal.
“Those three identified themselves,” Alcorn said. “They can step up and move into our top pool. … Christian was very good. I wasn’t sure if he was ready to step up at this level but he proved that he can today.”
Chaney ended his career at Fresno City last month as an All-America center back but played in more of a attacking role with the Fuego, using his size and strength to create multiple scoring opportunities late.
The Earthquakes took the lead on Daniel Kucynski’s strike in the eighth minute.
Tensions rose in the 45th when Fuego defender Cody Ellison was yellow-carded after taking down an opposing player in the penalty area. San Jose missed the penalty, as the ball sailed over the crossbar, but would build a 3-1 lead over the next 30 minutes.
The Fuego, which kicks off the 14-match PDL regular season at Chukchansi Park on May 2, have scheduled a handful of exhibitions against some big-name clubs next month at Chukchansi Park, Alcorn said.
The team is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday.