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Fusion Come up Short 3-2 Against Project 51O at Ventura College

The Ventura County Fusion came up short 3-2 against the visiting Project 51O Saturday night at Ventura College. Despite the loss, the Fusion occupies fourth place in the USL League 2 Western Conference Southwest Division three points behind the third-place San Francisco Glens. Project 51O leads the division with two weeks left in the season.

“It was very disappointing to come away from the game without any points,” said Fusion head coach Mike Elias. “I thought we played very well particularly in the first half and followed the game plan set out prior to the game. We created opportunities while limiting them from any meaningful goal scoring opportunities. It was a different story in the second half and we fell short of our targets. But we never dropped our heads and battled on, hitting the crossbar in the dying minutes which would have tied up the game. We must now regroup, move forward and focus as we hit the road next week for a double header in San Francisco.”

The Fusion, coming off a 1-0 victory last week over Central Valley Fuego FC, pressed hard to start the game, making it difficult for Project 510 to play out of the back or muster any rhythm. The Fusion front line of Logan Farrington and Nathanial Opoku combined with wingers Marley Edwards and Abubukar Fofana to harass Project 51O’s backline, creating turnover after turnover in the process.

One of those turnovers led to the game’s first goal when Fusion midfielder Bastian Oberlei intercepted a pass in the center of the field and slipped it to Farrington just inside the box. The Fusion striker burst down the left side of the box and was taken down by a Project 51O defender drawing a penalty kick. Farrington, the Fusion’s leading scorer with four goals on the season, scored his fifth, slamming it hard to the right of goalie Edwin Rodriguez who got a hand on the ball but could not keep it out of the goal.

Following the goal, the Fusion kept up the high press and looked the more dangerous side. Farrington had two more excellent chances to score off of passes by Fofana, but could not convert and the first half ended 1-0.

Project 510 came out aggressively in the second half, however, and it looked a different game with the Oakland side working the ball through the middle and Fusion easing off on the press. The equalizer came in the 68th minute when Julian Valle scored off a redirected cross, tapping in a sitter directly in front of the Fusion goal.

A few minutes later, winger Javier Mariona gave Project 51O the lead, whipping in a picture-perfect free kick off the inside of the crossbar.

Elias subbed in fresh legs with Jairzhino Fumont and Sergio Villapando coming in for Farrington and Fofana. Unfortunately, the Fusion offense continued to sputter and nobody was able to stop Mariona down the left side. With 10 minutes left in regulation, Mariona received a pass, left Fusion defender Steven Anderson for dead with a shifty move and bolted towards goal. The Fusion defense shifted to cut him off, but he deftly laid the ball off to 15-year-old academy product Javi Bedolla-Vera, who tapped it home, giving Project 51O the insurance goal for a 3-1 lead.

The Fusion mounted a furious comeback, lofting cross after cross into the Project 51O box. The tactic paid off in stoppage time when Anderson curled a beautiful ball that Henry Smith-Hastie one-timed into the back of the net. A few seconds later, the Fusion almost scored again, sending a ball off the crossbar, but in the end, Project 51O’s defense held, and the game ended 3-2.

The Fusion travel to Davis to take on Davis Legacy SC Wednesday, July 6 at Davis Legacy Stadium. Davis Legacy SC sits one spot below the Fusion in fifth place in the conference.

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