Salt Lake Sting coach Valery Volostnykh says his team is ready.
"Tonight we were good," Volostnykh said after his soccer players downed the Colorado Foxes 3-1 Monday in their final exhibition game. "We're ready for the (season-opener) against the Blackhawks."Keep in mind, this is essentially the same Colorado team that beat the Sting all six times they met last year. And while a two-goal victory on the frozen grass at Skyline High stadium might not seem all that spectacular, note that the Sting did it while playing one man short for 30 minutes of the second half, and two players short for the final 2:40.
They even scored their third goal while playing short-sided.
The Sting served notice early that they didn't intend to let the Foxes bully them this time. Salt Lake newcomer Thor Lee rifled a shot into the left corner of the Colorado goal just six minutes into the match, with an assist from Derek Sanderson, to make it 1-0.
At the 26:48 mark, the Sting's George Pastor, last year's No. 2 scorer in the American Professional Soccer League, was breaking for the goal when a defender tripped him from behind. The result was a penalty kick, and Volostnykh called on one of his former Real Santa Barbara (Calif.) players, Cesar Plasencia, to boot it. Colorado goalie Bobby Ammann anticipated a kick to the left and leaped in that direction, and Plasencia drilled the ball right to make it 2-0.
Two minutes later, Colorado's Rico Doe got the Foxes within one with a shot into the right corner of the Sting goal, and the score remained 2-1 for the remaining 241/2 minutes of the period.
With 30 minutes left to play in the second half, the referee slapped a red card on the Sting's Chris Wentzien for a hard tackle at midfield. That sent Wentzien to the bench for the rest of the contest. It was the first of two red cards the Sting received, and Volostnykh said neither one was merited.
"I don't like to talk about officials," he said, "but this was unbelievable. Neither of them deserved it. Yellow, yes, but not red."
No matter, though. A couple minutes after Wentzien departed, Plasencia lofted a corner kick to Sanderson, who headed it into the Foxes' goal to make the score 3-1.
Colorado was unable to capitalize on the Sting's short-handedness, even when Salt Lake's Steve Singelmann received a red card with 2:40 left, again after a hard tackle. That left the Sting with just nine players on the field, but it didn't make any difference - they turned away every Colorado threat with hustling defense and deft goalkeeping by Paul Parkinson.
Volostnykh said his team has improved considerably in the nine days since it battled the Foxes to a 1-1 tie in Denver. They have added some players since then, but also, he said, "We have improved our game, our style. We are prepared to play San Francisco."
The Sting open the regular season Saturday in San Francisco against the Blackhawks, coached by former Sting coach Laurie Calloway. The following Saturday the Sting return to Derks Field to take on the Albany Capitals.