The countdown to the 2012 USL PRO season continued for Charlie Naimo's Los Angeles Blues as they signed new players and held a series of friendlies.
On Feb. 15, the club signed Shay Spitz, a New Zealand international formerly of the Hollywood United Hitmen. Spitz brings years of experience playing in Southern California and is expected to fit in with the Blues quite nicely.
“When I signed, I was still in Australia and hadn’t even been in camp with the Blues,” Spitz told LABluesProSoccer.com's Gunnar Berndt. “That said, I could tell how professionally the club is run just from the constant updates on their website and from talking to their staff.
"It seemed like they had a clear strategy in place off the field and were on top of things all the time. I was very excited when they approached me and even more excited when I got the contract offer.”
One week later, the club partnered with Fullerton's Matador Cantina. Located on 111 N. Harbor Blvd., the Matador Cantina will be hosting team-related events this year, such as viewing parties and other functions.
On Feb. 25, the Blues fell 1-0 to the Mexico Under-20 men's national team on a goal from Alfonso Tamay in the 60th minute. Los Angeles were forced to play two men down by the end of the contest.
LA opened March by signing Gambian defender Ebrima "E.J." Jatta, formerly of the Banjul Hawks. A defender that stirred interest from Reading FC in 2007 and Norwich City in 2008, Jatta's 6'3" frame and towering presence impressed the manager during camp.
“When we had a chance to secure E.J., we jumped on it," Naimo told Berndt. "His performance against Mexico absolutely validated that decision. He actually exceeded our expectations, given that our preseason hadn’t even officially started and that he looked extremely sharp nonetheless.”
As for Jatta, he felt his time as a trialist paid dividends.
"I like the fact that they’re putting great emphasis on our defending this year and show a lot of commitment to making me understand my role," Jatta said. "I’m extremely happy about this opportunity and can’t wait to help the team succeed."
After forming a partnership with Ticketfly for the 2012 season, more signings came calling for the Blues. On Mar. 6, the club signed South Korean Cho Sun-Hyung, formerly of Bethesda Christian University, another defender that will look to make scoring on LA tough for opponents in USL PRO.
“Cho is that kind of player who has both the intelligence and the technical ability to find solutions under pressure," Jalayer said. "In addition to that he’s very fit, so he really brings a variety of elements to the table that we like.”
On Mar. 7, another South Korean and Bethesda Christian University standout, Park Cheun-Yong, was signed by the Blues. An attacker with potential, Park previously had a stint with Beijing Ligong of the Chinese Jia League before coming to the States.
For Park, he plans to use this as an opportunity to make the jump to the big league; that is, Major League Soccer.
“I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to prove myself, because I was very nervous up in Seattle and didn’t feel that I played my best soccer," Park told Berndt. "Perhaps playing in USL PRO will get me another shot with an MLS team at some point."
On Mar. 11, the Blues finally defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy...albeit against their Under-20 side thanks to a goal by Matt Fondy in the 81st minute for a 1-0 result.
Los Angeles opens their 2012 season on Apr. 14 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. against the Rochester Rhinos.