Wonders see red in opening loss | NevadaAppeal.com

Wonders see red in opening loss

Dave Price
Appeal Sports Writer

The Nevada Wonders ended up seeing red in their Premiere Development League soccer season opener on Saturday night.

A red card in the 63rd minute ultimately led to their undoing, that is, as the Southern California Seahorses scored twice in the final 11 minutes to break open a scoreless duel and defeat the Wonders 2-0 before an announced crowd of 203 at Carson High School.

Goals by Frank Mata in the 79th minute and then in the 88th minute – both assisted by his roommate Anthony Stovall – provided the difference in the season opener for both sides.

A couple of factors worked against the Wonders. For one, they still aren’t at full strength because of college players who are still in school. For another, they only practiced together for the first time on Friday.

And for another, they found themselves short one man on the field after defender Wayne Maden left the field when he was issued his second yellow card of the second half.

“Before the red card, we felt pretty comfortable. Then we have to change the whole shape of the team,” Wonders coach Paul Aigbogun said.

“I was pleased with the way we played for our opener. If not for that (red card), I don’t think we would have come away with a loss. It’s a hard one to lose, but we just have to learn from it.”

It helped create opportunity for the Seahorses, who remembered their last trip to Carson City resulted in a 3-2 defeat last summer.

“We came in conscious of the fact this was our first game, that we were playing on the road and at altitude and that we lost up here last year. We wanted to make sure we came in focused,” coach Todd Elkins said.

Stovall, who formerly played at the University of South Carolina, and Mata, from San Jose State, combined to provide the spark on offense. Stovall worked the ball in from the left wing to Mata, who turned and blasted a shot to the back of the net for the first goal. The second came after Stovall lofted the ball into the box and Mata headed it in.

“In the second half, Anthony got in more of a groove,” Elkins said of Stovall. “He was able to create opportunity by going at some players, make a good service into the box, and Frank was right there to tuck it away.”

A glance at the statistics showed Southern California with a 13-10 advantage on the shot chart. Wonders goalkeeper Mitsunori Kotani was credited with three saves, including a nice stop when he went to his knees to smother a sharp grounder in the 13th minute. He also stopped a free kick in the 65th minute.

Ben Callon had three shots on goal for the Wonders, one from inside the box that was stopped by Southern California goalkeeper Dan Thibault in the 60th minute. Callon, from Blackburn, England, was a first-team all-conference and NAIA All-America midfielder for NAIA University of Rio Grande during the 2004 season.

Maden was honored as American Mideast Conference Freshman of the Year at Rio Grande and received honorable mention NAIA All-America recognition in 2004.

The Wonders play their next four games on the road, including a test on Friday night at Orange County, before they return home on May 28 to play the San Diego Gauchos.

“We still have some guys in school, having finals and everything,” Aigbogun said. “It’ll be hard these first few games, but by the time we come back home again, we should have all our players and we’ll have time to train together.”

And this is a quality soccer league, Elkins pointed out.

“The PDL is a good level and the Southwest Division is a tough division,” the Seahorses coach said. “This was a good opener for us. These guys are tough up here.”

n Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1220.