For the Ventura Fusion, 2018 was a challenging season that saw them start fast and stumble due to injuries before rallying to place second in the PDL’s Southwest Division. The team, composed of a mix of players from last year’s squad and talented newcomers, continued the success that the Fusion has built over recent seasons, and left Fusion Head Coach Rudy Ybarra impressed and eager for next season.
“We showed so much heart, this year,” said Ybarra. “We had some unfortunate injuries, but our results reflect the team’s refusal to let those injuries get them down or affect their play. We had a number of players, including Marshall Garcia, who we had to move into different roles, but who kept their heads up and did a remarkable job. Marshall ended up leading the team in minutes, and he was just a warrior out there. You cannot have the season we did despite the injuries without the entire team giving 100 percent.
The team was great out of the gate. After an opening night 1-1 tie against the San Diego Zest, the Fusion ran off four straight wins including a 2-1 victory in the next game against the So Cal Seahorses. A 1-0 win in a rematch against the Zest in San Diego pushed their record to 4-1-0.
The team’s first loss came in the following game, a June 6 meeting with SF City FC. At the midway point in the season, the Fusion had a solid 4-2-1 record but were fighting a two-game slide. They needed a win, and they got it, in a big way against the SF Glens. The game marked the season debut for former USL pro Matthew Hurlow. Hurlow, who scored nine goals in nine games for the San Diego Zest’s USL side in 2016, made an instant impact, scoring one of the Fusion’s four goals that night in a 4-0 shutout win. With the win, the Fusion kept pace with the Santa Cruz Breakers in the Southwest Division race.
Unfortunately, season-ending ankle injuries to the team’s starting center backs, Carson Vom Steeg and Adam Olson, and injuries to other key members of the squad began to take their toll. Despite moving holding mid Garcia to center back to plug the hole in the back line, the Fusion lost their next three games. The team scored only one goal in the three losses, before righting the ship with a 1-0 squeaker against the Breakers.
The Fusion split its last two games, ending the year with a 1-0 loss to division champion FC Golden State Force. A highlight of that game was former US World Cup player Jermaine Jones, who joined the Fusion lineup and played the full 90 minutes.
Despite the rash of injuries, the Fusion’s 22 points were good enough for second place in the Southwest Division and a testament to the team’s resiliency. Leo Anjos led the Fusion in goals with five, while Diego Sanchez led the team in assists with five.
“This season gives us a base that we can use to build for next season,” said Ybarra. “We hope to see a lot of the players from this season return to represent the 805 again in 2019. Overall, we were happy finishing second given all the injuries the team had this season. We’re looking forward to good things for next season.”