Brace by Opoku Propels Ventura County Fusion Over Marin Legends
A brace from winger Nathaniel Opoku gave the Ventura County Fusion a 4-2 win over the visiting Marin Legends Sunday afternoon at William Roland Stadium on the campus of Cal Lutheran University.
Opoku, who was born in Ghana and scored 19 goals last season at NAIA Lindsey Wilson College, scored in the first half to bring Fusion back from a 1-0 deficit and again in the second half to put them ahead 3-2.
“Nathaniel had a really good game. Looked really sharp and was always an attacking threat,” said Fusion head coach Mike Elias. “He could have had even a few more goals. We went from a 4-4-3 to a 4-4-2 and we had him a little more central in the second half as a false nine and it worked well.”
The game featured a good deal of high-pressure defense and an array of missed chances from both sides. Marin Legends started the scoring early when a botched back pass on the Fusion back line gave Marin center forward Luke Raley a one-on-one opportunity against Fusion goalie Antonio Chavez Borelli. Raley, who scored 18 goals during his senior season (2019) at Dominican University, slotted it past Chavez Borelli to put Fusion in a 1-0 hole.
Going behind energized the Fusion, however, who proceeded to dominate possession and put almost continuous pressure on the Marin goal. Inaccurate crosses and unlucky finishing kept the game at 1–0 until Opoku, in possibly the greatest display of individual skill so far this season, received the ball 25 yards out just to the left of the box, cut inside and curled a beautiful strike around the outstretched hands of Marin goalkeeper Elliot Pavis.
Two minutes before halftime, Opoku had a chance when Marin defender Keaton Fargo knocked a pass directly Opoku who was fouled at the top of the box while driving on goal. Opoku took the free-kick, but sent it directly into the wall. Just before the half, he had yet another chance on goal, receiving a deftly played pass from Bastion Oberlei over the top of the defense but skyed the shot over the crossbar.
The two teams went into the half knotted at 1-1. To start the second half, Elias subbed in winger Marley Edwards for center midfielder Jairzhino Fumont and moved Opoku into the middle with Logan Farrington. This gave the Fusion even more speed up top and the team responded with a furious press that put the Marin backline under tremendous pressure. Marin scrambled to get the ball out of its own half and began to look frazzled. At the 58th minute mark, however, after a series of Fusion corner kicks, Pavis booted the downfield to Raley who passed it down the right side to Nicolas Herrera Land who shrugged off Juan Pablo Alvarez and slammed it past Chavez-Borelli to put Marin up 2-1.
The lead held up for almost 20 minutes as the Fusion press bega continued to wear Marin down. The northern California team, who had only one sub for the match, struggled to complete passes and a Fusion goal looked inevitable. At the 78-the minute mark, a Marin defender failed to clear the ball, which ended up at the feet of Edwards close in to the right of goal. The Fusion substitute turned and lofted a beautiful chip over Pavis’s outstretched hands to knot the score at 2-2.
From that point, it was obvious that Marin was exhausted and Fusion began to dominate. Another turnover deep in the final third gave Opoku another one-one-one opportunity with the goalie and he converted to give Fusion the 3–2 lead. A few minutes later, Pavis muffed a save on a shot by Reziq Almosa to put the game out of reach 4-2.
“Obviously we were coming off a 4-1 loss, we were determined to put things right on the field. I needed to see a certain work ethic among the team and they delivered to be honest. We were behind twice and came back to win by two clear goals. So hats off to the boys. They showed tremendous character.”
The victory moved the Ventura County Fusion from fourth place to third in the USL League 2 Southwest division standings, four points behind division-leading SoCal Seahorses. Fusion returns to action at Ventura College Saturday, June 25 at 7 pm vs. Central Valley Fuego FC.
For more information on the Ventura County Fusion, visit vcfusion.com