Good Sports: Fresno Fuego

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When the Fresno Fuego kick off their calendar season Saturday night against Highway 99 rivals Sacramento Republic F.C., there will be more than just a soccer game on the line.

"This is local talent," Bullard High school grad and Fuego Midfielder Elliot Hord said. "It's a family oriented team, and you don't get that a lot. It's nice to see everyone grew up in the Valley, everyone knows the culture, and what it means to be a part of Fuego."

"This is certainly being set up to be a game that is very intense," Fuego general manager Jeremy Schultz said. "The players know each other. There's a huge bit of tension there between the guys."

The Fuego have never had a problem attracting top level talent to the Central Valley. Last year's Central California Cup sold out Chukchansi Park with an electric atmosphere.

"It was so many passionate fans that we saw," Shultz recalled. "We saw the potential of what Fresno is and how we can be represented in this sport."

And this year will be no different with the USL Pro Champion Republic coming to the Chuk. USL Pro is the equivalent of AAA baseball, and Sacramento is a frontrunner for Major League Soccer status in the near future.

"They're a good team," Schultz said. "They're the USL Pro 2014 Champions. We know and we respect that and admire what they've done in their short time as a franchise."

And for the Fuego, it's all about getting the community behind them, with aspirations of bumping the franchise up to USL Pro status. The Fuego say Fresno is a soccer town and the time is now to get a professional team in the market.

"We're ready. We're ready to compete at the next level," Hord said. "We're going to take it to the next level and we're ready to make the move into the USL Pro League. So it's good for the Valley. It's a good chance to promote our team and say, 'This is our opportunity.'"

"We're right on the edge of something very special here," Schultz said. "I hope the community recognizes that and comes out in numbers to support these local boys and help us push the franchise to the next level."

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