February is a busy month for the Fresno Fuego, even if the regular season is still two-plus months away.
Aside from finding the talent it needs to field a competitive roster for the 2015 Premier Development League race, the team also has its players continuing their work toward a shot to advance into the professional ranks of U.S. soccer.
Preseason exhibitions, like the one at 7 p.m. Saturday against USL PRO club Los Angeles Galaxy II, are lined up to provide experience and exposure.
The match at Chukchansi Park will be the Fuego’s third exhibition this month against a professional club.
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On Wednesday, the club traveled to San Jose and played the MLS Earthquakes in a closed-door scrimmage. The Earthquakes won 4-0, but Fuego players were able to showcase their talent against a team with a roster that includes U.S. national team players Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson.
Fresno coach Scott Alcorn knows the odds are slim for a player to rise quickly to the pro ranks, but said it is a process of “planting seeds and letting them sow.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the time they say they don’t need the players, but there is that 1% where they say they like the kid.” Alcorn said. “Sometimes it’s begging, asking if we can send a player to go try out.”
The hope is that the players don’t have to lean on open tryouts, where they could find themselves buried in a deep field of prospects, but instead will be impressive enough to land invitation-only or first-team tryouts.
Jose “Chiva” Cuevas remains the only player on the current Fuego roster with a pro deal — he re-signed with Arizona United FC of USL PRO in November. Former Fuego player Devon Grousis (Fresno City/Fresno Pacific) re-signed with Arizona last week.
Saturday will give players such as Elliot Hord, Paul Islas and Cody Ellison a chance to join those two at the higher level.
Since its 2003 launch, the Fuego have helped more than 50 players take that next step, according to General Manager Jeremy Schultz.
And because the club doesn’t have a formal affiliation with one of the pro clubs, it allows players the opportunity to play wherever there is interest.
“It’s a great avenue,” Alcorn said. “You never know where the ceiling is at with these players.”
Fire Squad Fresno
Fuego supporters club Fire Squad Fresno will host another pre-match membership party before Saturday’s game.
Members will gather at 4 p.m. at Tioga-Sequoia Brewery Co., 746 Broadway St., just south of the stadium. At about 6:30 p.m., the group will march into Chukchansi Park.
Memberships are $40 and include tickets to all regular-season matches, a supporters club scarf and various discounts.
For information, visit the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/firesquadfresno.