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Turlock Express playoff hopes in jeopardy
Samuel Saldate and Roberto Lopez participate in a practice scrimmage at Turlock Indoor Soccer on Thursday. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/ The Journal

In their first two years in the Professional Arena Soccer League, the Turlock Express were able to notch back-to-back winning seasons that included a playoff berth at 10-6 in 2011-12 and a 9-7 mark last year.

After eight games this year, at exactly the halfway mark — the Express not only find themselves second to last in the Pacific Division, but also see their postseason hopes quickly vanishing.

With six losses already — sitting at 2-6 — the Express have had a luckless year, especially on offense, which has been unable to produce as many goals as they have given up currently getting outscored 42-57. Also plagued by injuries on the offensive side, head coach Art Pulido feels his team still has some upsides with only eight games left.

“Some pros have been that defensively we have saved more goals opposed to last year and in indoor ball it is big,” Pulido said. “The cons are not being able to score as much as last year with a combination of injuries also affecting us.”

The team started out 2-0, but since then due to injuries on the offensive side, it has experienced six straight losses, something the team has yet to see since entering the PASL.

Last year the Express managed to win three of its final four games to sneak into the postseason, proving a late season surge is possible, but if it will be possible this year with a struggling offense that has a large bulk of the point scorers banged up, remains to be seen.

Ivan Campos, Adrian Gutierrez and Bronil Koochoie led the way offensively accumulating 123 points along with 75 goals in 16 contests last season. This season in eight games, the leading scorers are Arturo Pulido with 15 points, four goals and Martyn Arista, who has seven goals and three assists and three players tied with five goals.

“The first two years we lost offensive players to other teams, but this year we can’t balance the offensive side,” Pulido said. “Now we’re more defensive with the new guys than offensively, and I feel that is the difference from this year and others.”

While the defense has played well behind goalkeeper Javier Rosales, who has a save percentage of .769, he has allowed fewer than six goals per game, which is a great statistic in indoor soccer.

The offense on the other hand has failed to produce transition opportunities into goals. Turlock has been able to put up 5.25 goals per game — an unacceptable figure for the PASL and coach Pulido knows some things must change.

“We played a game when we allowed only five goals, but what happens is we can’t win a game scoring less than five goals a game in indoor soccer,” Pulido said. “I think it has been the story we outshot a lot of teams but not have gone in. Sometimes it goes like that but we are trying to change it. We just can’t get the ball in for whatever reason.”

Recent acquisition, Pablo Lopez out of Tracy has added a spark on a struggling offense notching five goals and an assist in the last three games — already placing himself second on the team in goals. As a team, however, they have been outscored 30-17 in that span.

“Pablo played in the past for me when we won the state cup in 2008-2009, so he is a familiar player that should help us offensively,” Pulido said about Lopez joining and playing the previous three matches.

Herb Garzon and Samuel Saldate of the Express each missed at least three games this year with injuries but Pulido hopes to see them take the field Saturday as they will travel to take on the first place Las Vegas Legends, who currently sit atop the division.

Turlock looks to turn things around against a heavy offensive attacking group which is first in league in goals scored per game (11.2).

With a win, the Express could be bumped up significantly in a very competitive and tough Pacific Division in which they currently trail the Legends by five games and two and a half behind the Bay Area Rosal.

“We have mentioned to the guys the current situation for the postseason,” Pulido said. “We get pressured to score and sometimes we’re not as relaxed to work towards getting a score.”

A loss, could potentially — not surely — end their season and the probability of obtaining a playoff spot which would be the first time they failed to do so since joining the league back in 2011.

“I think we match up well with them because their defense is not as good as their high scoring offense. If we can hold them off and score I feel we can turn it around but it has to start this weekend,” Pulido said.

The game against the Legends will begin at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.