Home Ground: Chukchansi Park; Fresno, California
Manager: Adam Smith
2017 Finish: Became a Team
Nickname: The Foxes, Los Zorros
Do you believe in life after loss? This newly founded club from Cher’s hometown certainly do, unbeaten in six matches following an opening day home loss to fellow newcomers Las Vegas Lights FC. The upstart club find themselves precisely mid-table, ninth in the west and perfectly poised to make a push for the playoffs -- or a blitz to the bottom. With three draws on the trot, the Foxes look quite capable of either.
Fresno Football Club were unveiled last July by USL President Jake Edwards, becoming one of four newly formed clubs for 2018. Owner Ray Beshoff described the name as one “that the entire Fresno community would be proud of,” which I suppose is certainly true in the sense that it does indeed have the city’s name in it. The logo pays homage to Fresno’s Spanish roots in the form of an ash leaf, the word fresno meaning ash tree in Spanish. The general manager Frank Yallop chimed in here, referring to the badge as “a symbol for the community,” and “[o]ne we hope the community will be proud to wear.” The community could not be reached for comment.
2017 closed out in hectic fashion, the Foxes signing their first manager, affiliating with the Vancouver Whitecaps, hosting an open tryout, signing their first players, and, yes, announcing their decision to use the fox as a mascot, all in less than two months. With Adam Smith officially at the helm, and Vancouver providing guidance, Fresno were able to bring in an early core of past relationships. Mickey Daly and Agustin Cazarez joined, having both played for Smith during his USL title-winning tenure as assistant coach at San Antonio Republic FC. The Whitecaps also provided a trio of players from their now-disbanded USL side.
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Following a busy transfer window which saw the club bring in a further 21 new signings (on account of the whole “not existing previously” thing), Fresno was ready to start play under the keen tutelage of Adam Smith. Unlike his namesake however, Smith’s approach has been anything but laissez-faire, switching up his side enough times that only a single player, keeper Kyle Reynish, has managed to play all 630 minutes of the current campaign.
The Foxes have had the benefit of an early home-heavy schedule, but have failed to do more than tread water. A win over second-bottom in the west Oklahoma City is the only time the Fresno faithful have earned all three points at home, and even then they were saved by late heroics from midfielder and joint-leading scorer Rony Argueta. An abysmal attempt at a clearance from OKC midfielder Callum Ross was pounced on by the Foxes’ Honduran, and he made sure to bury it from inside the six-yard box.
The goal scoring has certainly been spread about, with three separate strikers getting in on the action. One of Juan Pablo Caffa’s joint-leading two goals was a magnificent free kick in the same victory over OKC, driven with power and precision into the upper right corner. This is one of only three set piece goals scored by a Fresno player, including an own goal headed home by day one signee Mickey Daly. They’re certainly developing a knack for wonderstrikes, though, Pedro Ribeiro thundering one of his own in from over 30 yards out against Tulsa.
All this scoring would be a lot more useful, however, if the Foxes could keep opponents from doing the same. The two clean sheets they’ve maintained account for 4 of their 10 points, currently, and they’ve only managed to win a single match in which they’ve conceded. Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish certainly isn’t the problem, his 15 saves leaving him tied for seventh in the league. However, the 24 shots they’ve allowed on target is more on par with bottom of the table status; Oklahoma City have limited opponents to two fewer. If Fresno are going to pick up the points, they’ll need to start getting in the way. Use all the guile of the fox, with none of the innate skittishness.
So, Fresno find themselves in a precarious place quite early on in the season, with their future and identity hanging in the balance. Win at the weekend, and the unbeaten run becomes the foundation for a charge to the playoffs. Lose, and the Foxes are winless in four, and in quite the downward spiral. With the chance to make a name for themselves in their inaugural season, Fresno will look to rise to the occasion in Phoenix at the weekend.
Saturday, April 28 at Phoenix Rising FC; 10:00 PM EDT
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Author: Busby Cagle