Winning Western Conference championships the past two seasons but losing in the national semifinals has never been a goal of the Utah Blitzz professional soccer team.
"At this stage, we're saying that's not good enough," said Utah Blitzz coach Chris Agnello. "We're bringing in some new players."
When the Blitzz kick off the 2004 Pro Select League season this weekend with a pair of games at the California Gold, the squad will feature a mix of new and old.
Many of the old mainstays are back such Jorge Estrada, Rich Breza, Chad Sackett, Will Cummins, Damian Munoz, Adolfo Ovalle and Alejandro Gutierrez even though "Guti" quit the team before last year's playoff push.
Joining them are key contributors from past Blitzz teams.
B.J. McNicol, son of co-owner Staci McNicol, returns after a two-year hiatus living in Boston while his wife attended graduate school. McNicol was a member of the 2001 national championship Blitzz team.
John Cairel is also back after playing for the California Gold in 2003, and there's a possibility former Blitzz striker Fadi Afash may join the team in time for Friday's opener.
While the re-addition of McNicol and Cairel should help solidify the team's midfield and defense respectively, it's the signing of several other players that excites Agnello.
Just this week the Blitzz signed Jacobi Goodfellow, a member of the Wilmington team that eliminated Utah from last year's playoffs en route to the league title.
"When you play one-dimensionally, you get bored and stagnant," said Goodfellow about playing in Wilmington's traditional English style formation. In addition, the Seattle native is now much closer to home.
"My mom will be able to see me play a lot more," said the 27-year-old midfielder.
Goodfellow isn't the only Wilmington player the Blitzz ripped away from an Eastern Conference foe. Utah also signed Thomas Rutter, but he won't be arriving for another month or so. That's also the case with 30-year-old goalie Leo Zamorra. The good friend of Blitzz defender Adolfo Ovalle plays professionally in Chile with Catolica, and he's already obtained visas for himself and his family with the intent of moving to the United States.
It doesn't end there. The Blitzz inked contracts with former California defender Sean Melandez and former El Paso midfielder Javier Carrasco.
"We want to win a championship," said Agnello about all transactions.
So how do all the additions help the Blitzz?
"We will be a good solid team defensively and attack-minded in the midfield," said Agnello. "We'll have a versatile team that can go forward or stay back."
Agnello, who played high school soccer at Woods Cross, also anticipates that Utah won't be as predictable offensively.
By moving the 6-foot-3 Breza back to his natural forward position next to 5-foot-6 forward Gutierrez along with having the creativity of Matt Evans and McNicol in the middle the Blitzz have the potential of scoring goals in bunches.
"We should be able to stretch teams out defensively," said Agnello.Even though Breza won't be playing this weekend because of prior commitments, Utah is confident it can win Friday's all-important season opener. In addition to being a league game, it also doubles as a U.S. Open Cup qualifier.
NOTES: Here is Agnello's projected starting lineup for Friday. Sackett (keeper), Cairel (sweeper), Cummins (left back), Melandez (right back), Goodfellow (stopper), Evans (defensive midfielder), McNicol (attacking midfielder), Kiko Medina (left midfielder), Estrada (right midfielder), Ventura Bautista (forward) and Gutierrez (forward).
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