Just when the Nevada Wonders' defense had developed some consistency, a void has reopened. Sean Nealis, Nevada's most experienced player on the back line, could have played his last game for Nevada two weekends ago.
The 27-year-old Nealis has been in Harrah's dealing school for almost the past two weeks to become a blackjack dealer. The school eats up most of his day and makes it difficult for him to attend daily practices in Carson City. When the school ends later this week, Nealis will start working the swing shift at Harrah's in South Lake Tahoe.
"It's going to be pretty tough," Nealis said on Tuesday. "It's pretty much when the schedule allows me to play. It's tough because I'm not getting paid and I need to make money."
Nealis, who played several years of professional soccer in the A-League, had worked at the Adidas outlet store in South Lake Tahoe for more than year. But his hours were cut now that the slow season has begun in the resort town. He'll still work part time at Adidas but the bulk of his time the rest of the summer will be spent dealing blackjack at Harrah's. That alone will make it difficult to continue playing for the Wonders. Also, he has been played games on Monday and Wednesday in the men's recreational league on the south shore.
"It's going to hurt us," said Nevada coach Paul Aigbogun after Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Southern California Seahorses. "But what can you do? He got a new job."
The Wonders are in fourth place in the Southwest Division of the PDL's Western Conference. Their lone win came with Nealis in the lineup two weeks ago when they beat BYU 3-0. However, he wasn't in the lineup on Saturday. Nealis' older brother, Jim, will continue working as an assistant coach with Nevada. Sean Nealis had formed a solid four-man defense with Ken Otalor, John Blackley and Landon Roser. Aigbogun will need to find a worthy replacement by Saturday, when Nevada plays the San Diego Gauchos of the Pro Select League in San Diego.
The transition to the PDL from the collegiate club level has been a rough one for the BYU Cougars. They are 1-7 and in last place in the five-team Southwest Division. BYU isn't accustomed to losing. Coach Chris Watkins has led the Cougars to a 138-21-17 record in the past eight years and six collegiate club championships.
The Des Moines Menace had their 24-game league unbeaten streak snapped on Saturday when the Boulder (Colo.) Rapids Reserve beat the Menace 2-1 in Des Moines.
Fresno Fuego forward Edgardo Contreras-Salazar leads the PDL in points with 20 on eight goals and four assists. Teammate Orlando Ramirez is third in goals scored with seven, despite missing the past six games with an ankle injury.