The Turlock Express entered this season with two goals in mind: to put together a competitive team and to earn a playoff berth.
Currently at the midway point of a 20-game season and holding a 4-6 record — already besting last season’s dismal 3-17 record — head coach Art Pulido believes his team has already accomplished their first goal. Now, sitting in fourth place in the Pacific Division of the Major Arena Soccer League only three games out of second place, the Express are chasing their playoff goal with focus and vigor.
“Pretty much every game now is a must-win,” Pulido said of his team’s road to the playoffs.
If the remainder of Turlock’s games were played at home its chances of running the table in the MASL would be good as they’ve won every home game this season. Unfortunately, 40 percent of the remaining schedule will be played on the road, meaning road wins will be crucial to the Express’ mission.
“We’ve gotten close with some of the road games, but when you’re on the road it’s a little tough to close out games,” Pulido said. “But I think it’s very possible at this time, as long as injuries don’t hurt us and we stay focused.”
The team’s next game will be played at home on Friday against the Ontario Fury, who currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division, but the following three games will be away against the El Paso Coyotes, Dallas Sidekicks and Tacoma Stars, respectively.
Friday’s game will be the second meeting between the Express and Fury. Ontario won the first game 5-7.
“What we need to do is play defense where we don’t give them anything. So as long as we’re mistake free we have a good opportunity to beat them,” Pulido said.
Along with a strong defensive effort, the Express will also be leaning on their top offensive players — Anibal Echeverria, Martyn Arista and Adrian Gutierrez. Echeverria, who led the Stockton Surge in scoring last season, currently has 12 goals on the season while Livingston locals Arista and Gutierrez have 12 and 10 goals on the season, respectively.
The game against the Fury will begin at 7:05pm on Friday. Tickets are $14 at the door and $10 in advance.
“I think one of the reasons we are winning at home like this is because we’re getting support from the city, along with some of the new ownership,” Pulido said. “We have people supporting us and that’s a huge thing right now.”