More than 200 players showcased their skills at the Fresno Fuego and Fresno Freeze winter combine this week at Chukchansi Park.
The two semiprofessional soccer clubs held tryouts Thursday and Friday as they begin to build their rosters for 2017. Familiar faces turned out for both teams as the Fuego prepare for Premier Development League play and the Freeze for their third year in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Among Fuego veterans were Milton Blanco, Alex Culwell, and Jose “Chiva” Cuevas, who spent last season with the USL’s OKC Energy.
Elliott Hord and Christian Chaney also were at the tryouts in support of their hometown club. After the Fuego’s breakout season a year ago, the two reached agreements with Sacramento Republic FC of the USL and renewed their contracts with Republic earlier this month.
Fuego coach Brian Zwaschka hopes the presence of the rising stars served as motivation for the trialists.
“That shouldn’t be anything but encouragement and incentive to the other ones that are aspiring to (reach the next level),” he said.
Zwaschka and assistant Jose Delgadillo scouted dozens of players in hopes of finding the right complement for the Fuego.
“The reality is right now we want to make sure we’re building a core group of guys and a core group of values that is going to be stable from year to year,” Zwaschka said.
On the women’s side, Freeze veterans Nikki Schrey, Ashley Tenn and Jaycee Ogden were in attendance to lead this year’s trialists. Anisa Guajardo, the former Buchanan High and Pepperdine standout who was part of Mexico’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup team, was training with the Freeze and is expected to see action in an exhibition next weekend.
“We’re really excited about getting over the hump this year and making a playoff run and competing for a national championship,” Freeze coach Tim Carroll said. In their first two seasons, the Freeze have lost just four matches but narrowly missed the playoffs while finishing as divisional runner-up both years.
“Our team has had tremendous success in our first couple years and we’re excited about the returning veterans; and at the combine, we saw some excellent young talent that can come in and create some excitement on our roster.”
The Fuego and Freeze will look to finalize rosters by February, when both the PDL and WPSL schedules will be released.
In the meantime, the two clubs will play a number of scrimmages and exhibitions, starting Jan. 7 with the Central Valley Showcase at Chukchansi Park.
The Fuego and Freeze will play the Central Valley All-Stars, teams comprising standout area junior college players. The Freeze will play the women’s team at 4 p.m. The Fuego will play the men at 6:30 p.m.
Ticket begin at $6 and can be purchased at the Chukchansi Park box office or www.fresnofuego.com.
Central Valley Showcase
- What: The men’s and women’s Central Valley All-Star teams, comprised of the best players from area junior colleges, will play an exhibition against the Fresno Fuego and Fresno Freeze.
- When: Saturday, Jan. 7 at Chukchansi Park
- Time: 4 p.m. (women), 6:30 p.m. (men)
- Tickets: $6 general admission and Fire Squad Fresno members, $11 Phoenix Club. Children ages 3 and under are free.
- Details: www.fresnofuego.com