To the Salt Lake Sting and many of the 4,239 fans at Derks Field, it almost looked like the New Mexico Chiles didn't show up Friday night. Perhaps that's because they almost didn't. Show up, that is.
On still another rainy evening, the Sting had little trouble in taking a 4-0 victory, which moved them within a point of first place in the WSL North.For the Chiles, the game was a contination of a nightmarish day that was spent mostly on planes and in airports.
The Chiles left Albuquerque at 10:20 a.m. and arrived at Derks Field at 6:40 p.m., just 20 minutes before kickoff. In between they spent nearly seven hours at Denver's Stapleton Airport, seeing not one, but two of their flights to Salt Lake cancelled.
They finally found a flight around 5 and arrived in Salt Lake only to find there were no vans waiting for them at the airport. They rounded up some transportation, hightailed it over to Derks, where they were informed by the game officials that the match would start on time.
"What can you do?" said New Mexico Coach Dave Carr. "We show up here at twenty minutes to seven and they expect to play at 7:05. It's a little unrealistic to ask any athlete to perform at any kind of acceptable level when they haven't had time to touch a ball, see the field, stretch or warm up."
According to Carr, some of his players were still getting taped when the player introductions were made.
"It really affected our legs and affected us mentally," said Chile defender Chris Pfau. "The biggest part is mentally, but your legs aren't going to be ready if you've been sitting around all day and don't have a chance to loosen up."
Sting Coach Laurie Calloway was aware of New Mexico's travel troubles, and he admonished his team to strike early since the other team would still be a bit "shell-shocked" from their late arrival.
The Sting responded, taking just two minutes to score as George Pastor hit a shot from 18 yards out off an assist by Derek Sanderson.
Thirty minutes later, the two combined again, this time with Pastor hitting Sanderson, who put a delicate shot in the left front corner of the net.
The Sting had a chance to got up 3-0 late in the half when Pastor was fouled inside the penalty area, but Dzung Tran's penalty shot was stopped by New Mexico goalkeeper Dana Rogge.
The Pastor-Sanderson combination hooked up again early in the second half when the pair executed a perfect give-and-go as Pastor knocked it in from 15 yards out on the right side.
Pastor was involved in the final goal as he took it right to the goal area, got the goalie to commit then passed it off to Dominic Milatello who had a wide-open net for the score.
"We could have easily have had eight or nine (goals)," said Pastor, who was frustrated about missing on several other chances to score. "It was wide-open out there today. I don't know why. Their minds just weren't in it."
The Sting (6-4), who play at Seattle next week, got nine points for the win and have 51 for the season, just one less than division-leading San Francisco and the same number as Colorado. New Mexico (4-6) can do the Sting a big favor by beating Colorado Saturday night.
That is, if the Chiles ever make it back to Denver. After Friday's experience, they aren't anxious to return.