The Fresno Fuego and first-year coach Sean Lanigan were ready for the Premier Development League season to start five minutes ago.
Like a kettle whistling on the stove, the club is ready to boil over after an arduous preseason heading into their season opener Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Burlingame Dragons at Chukchansi Park.
“It’s go time,” Lanigan said. “We are flying high right now. We’re tired of training.”
Lanigan, a Virginia native who has more than 30 years of playing and coaching experience, and his assistants Brian Zwaschka (Fresno State women’s coach) and Jose Delgadillo (an assistant under previous coach Scott Alcorn, who stepped down last year after nine seasons) have been working to get their players in shape with the goal of making a run at the Central Pacific Division title and the club’s first trip to the playoffs in three years.
“I’m anxious to see what the PDL has to offer,” Lanigan said. “We want to win this league. We want to come out Friday night and have our first victory.”
The Fuego plays in the PDL’s five-team Central Pacific Division along with the Burlingame Dragons FC, BYU Cougars, Las Vegas Mobsters and San Francisco FC.
The Fuego previously played in the Southwest Division, winning titles in 2003, ’07, ’11 and ’13 before moving to a new division as part of a league realignment this year.
The campaign starts with the PDL’s Game of the Week against defending Southwest Division champion Burlingame, which made a run to the Western Conference semifinals in its inaugural season. The Dragons also have moved to the Central Pacific Division.
The Fuego is coming off a 6-5-3 (W-L-T) season and third-place finish in the division race that saw them miss the postseason for the second year in a row.
Fresno will have several familiar returners in forward Milton Blanco, midfielders Abraham Campos and Christian Chaney and defenders Elliott Hord and Sergi Nus.
5 Consecutive home matches for the Fuego to start the 14-game PDL schedule
However, the Fuego will be missing two midfielders as Renato Bustamante and Elijah Martin are playing in the National Premier Soccer League with the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2, the development squad for the North American Soccer League Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Martin, who played with LA Galaxy II of the United Soccer League last season, showed promise with the Fuego at center midfield in preseason matches against Ararat Yerevan FC and Sacramento Republic FC.
Bustamante, a standout at Fresno Pacific, last season led Fresno in goals (seven) and assists (four) while earning All-Western Conference first-team honors at the end of the PDL season.
FRESNO FUEGO VS. BURLINGAME DRAGONS
- When: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Chukchansi Park
- 2015 records (W-L-T): Fresno Fuego 6-5-3; Burlingame Dragons 10-1-3
- Webcast/TV: Youtube.com/CMACFresno; Xfinity 94/AT&T U-Verse 99
- First of five: The season opener is the first of five consecutive home matches to start the season for Fresno. The Fuego will next host San Francisco City FC on May 14 at Chukchansi Park