The Fresno Fuego are back for the 2015 Premier Development League season and the soccer club is stacked with playing styles from across the globe.
It’s a much-needed move as Fuego will try and bounce back from the first losing season in franchise history, going 6-7-1 for fourth in the PDL Western Conference Southwest Division — one year after winning the division title and earning a spot in the U.S. Open Cup.
The pressure for improvement is on from the team’s ownership and it starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when the Fuego host the Golden State Misioneros in the PDL opener at Chukchansi Park.
Fresno has brought in new faces to mix with the old and play a more competitive, faster style of football not seen since 2008-09 and the days of Pablo Campos and Fabricio Codeceira.
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“This is a brand new Fuego team,” ninth-year coach Scott Alcorn said.
“We have about one-third of the old team back and the other two-thirds are new. Just to get on the field, these guys are going to have to fight and that will create an environment where you will see the level of play only get higher,” he said.
The new faces include Bruno Brumati of Brazil. He played at West Hills-Lemoore and helped the Golden Eagles to a 17-5-2 record last fall. Others are Sergi Nus of Spain; Joao Da Rosa of Brazil, who played for Fresno Pacific; and German import Sven Ricke, who was the team’s first YouTube-based recruit.
YouTube isn’t the preferred medium of recruitment, but both Alcorn and general manager Jeremy Schultz were impressed enough with Ricke’s film that they offered him a trial with the club. He’s expected to get his first playing time against the Misioneros.
UCLA defender and U.S. youth national team member Nathan Smith (Buchanan High), highlights the local list of Fuego players.
Smith, as a sophomore last fall, started 11 games at right back for NCAA runner-up UCLA before breaking his leg and missing the rest of the season.
Notable returners include midfielders Gaston Gignetti, Abraham Campos, Christian Chaney, winger Paul Islas and defenders Jesus Garcia, Trevor Spurgeon and Elliott Hord.
“We’re hoping to build a chemistry and hopefully incorporate it into the way we want to play and be successful off of that,” Chaney said. “It’s crunch time. We don’t want another season like last year.”