The pandemic may have put a stop to the Turlock Cal Express season almost two years ago, but the city’s professional indoor soccer team is back with a new roster — and a new look.
Like almost everything else in 2020, indoor soccer in Turlock was shut down when the coronavirus rolled into town. It was terrible timing for the Express, which had just debuted their rebrand from Turlock Express to Turlock Cal Express weeks before, complete with a new color scheme, sponsors and logo.
The pause in play heavily impacted the Major Arena Soccer League team, which will begin their fast-approaching season in the league’s second division known as M2. The Express previously played in the first division, M1, but financial losses thanks to the pandemic forced the team to move down so that they could continue to play.
In moving to M2, the Express roster now features an almost entirely new list of young names eager to prove themselves in a league which provides endless opportunities.
“It was frustrating,” Express head coach and owner Art Pulido said of the shutdown. “We didn’t have a clue what was going to happen, but we’ve had a good turnaround now with local players. This is truly a rebuild.”
Express will wear new kits this season which feature their new colors: powder blue, black and white. The change came about as a result of their new sponsor, CaliFino Tequila, which features similar colors in its branding. The new logo features the skull of a longhorn with an agave plant emblazoned on its forehead — a sharp contrast from the team’s previous logo, a red shield with a soccer ball in motion over the top.
The new season kicks off on the road in Ontario, California, on Jan. 8, and the team’s first home game at the Turlock Indoor Soccer complex, 500 S. Center St., is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 14 against the San Diego Sockers 2.
Goalie Edgar Martinez said it was “depressing” not being able to play during the pandemic. He’s eager to play well and help the team garner enough support to move back up to the league’s first division, he said.
“It’s going to be a different level of play, playing down,” Martinez said. “We want to be playing at a higher level.”
Defender Ivan Rios is hoping to be like Express players before him who have signed on to play with other professional teams and made careers out of soccer.
“I’m just hoping to get out and go somewhere,” Rios said. “Turlock Express is a way up. You can be scouted from here and it’s a huge door swung open if you join this team.”
The Express have played two scrimmages so far, losing one and winning one. Though the team is young and Pulido is looking forward to the rebuild and hopes to be back in the first division within the next two years. Until then, there’s plenty to look forward to. The team ranges in age from 19 to 25, and there are plenty of players from Turlock.
“They’re young, so they don’t get tired as easily,” Pulido laughed.
The team will need community support in order to return to their former glory, which has included first division playoff appearances in the past.
“The community support has always been huge. This team is something I love to do for the community; it gives the youth a chance to come and watch professional indoor soccer, and gives them someone to root for,” Pulido said. “I hope as a club we can return to that.”
For the full Turlock Cal Express schedule and to keep up with their season, follow the team on Instagram at @turlockcalexpress.