Second Ventura County Fusion Professional Combine Gives Professional Soccer Hopefuls a Chance
Second Ventura County Fusion Professional Combine Gives Professional Soccer Hopefuls a Chance to Perform in Front of Scouts from Professional Teams
Local players and those from as far away as Japan showed their skills for two days at Cal Lutheran University
The Ventura County Fusion held the second of two pro soccer combines January 15 and 16 at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Over 70 participants, including locals from Oxnard, Moorpark, Oak Park and other Ventura County cities competed with players from as far away as Philadelphia, Atlanta and Japan to impress professional coaches in hopes of going pro.
“Over the years more than 120 players from this combine have gone on to play professionally,” said Fusion president Ranbir Shergill. “We’ve had players that have ended up going from nowhere into MLS. We’ve had a lot of players going into USL and we’ve had a couple of players that have gone on to international football as well. They were all just players looking for an opportunity.”
Adrian Moreno, who played soccer at Channel Islands High School and Oxnard college has one more semester before he graduates and then hopes to turn pro. “I’m hoping to get a (professional) contract to take me to the next level,” said Moreno. “This is my first combine, but I plan to go to many more. There are a lot of good players here. Lots of Division 1 players. It was a great experience.”
One of the Division 1 players, Quinn Matulis, played high school soccer at Oak Park High School and club ball at local club Real So Cal. He spent his first two college seasons at the United States Air Force Academy before transferring to Boston College where he ended last season as the team’s captain and leading scorer. Matulis’ college career includes 13 goals and seven assists as well as a Western Athletic Conference Tournament MVP nod and a trip to the 2021 NCAA college soccer championships in North Carolina.
Lawrence Yamaguchi, a striker who grew up in Japan, started 18 games and scored five goals for U.C. Irvine during the 2021 season. Yamaguchi, who played five years for the Anteaters, was one of several Japanese players, some of whom traveled directly from Japan, to attend the combine. Other Division 1 schools including Cal State Northridge, Seattle University, Utah Valley University, Cal State Fullerton and Santa Clara University were also represented.
Many of the attendees, however, played for local high school teams and for college teams including Oxnard College, Moorpark College, Santa Monica College, Cal Lutheran University. College of the Canyons and Cal State Channel Islands.
J.P. Fernandez, who played for Oxnard’s Rio Mesa High School shares the same goal as Moreno. He played his college soccer at Bethesda University in Anaheim and has also played professionally in Mexico in Nicaragua. “My contract just ended and I’m looking for another opportunity,” said Fernandez.
The Fusion, which competes in the USL 2 southwestern division, also runs an extensive youth program with teams competing in several high-talent leagues. The club has offered pro combines for 14 years. It’s last combine, which ran November 27 and 28, 2021 showcased more than 50 players. Shergill says approximately 20 of those have been contacted by professional clubs after the combine for further tryout possibilities or even, in several cases, roster spots.
One of the players from this combine who will be getting his shot at the pros is Noe Meza, who was a first team all Western Athletic Conference performer at Seattle University. Meza graduated in December after a stellar college career that included over 60 games, 21 goals and six assists. Meza says after the first day of the combine, Jay Mims, head coach for defending USL League One champion Union Omaha called and invited him to attend the team’s pre-season training camp.
“I’m just trying to find a team,” Meza explained. “There were a couple of coaches (at the combine) who already knew about me so it was a good opportunity to play in front of them and get my name out there a little bit more.”
In addition to Union Omaha, the combine was attended by MLS sides Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders, USL Championship teams, Real Monarchs and Detroit City FC, USL League One team Tormenta FC and the Tacoma Defiance from the MLS Next Pro league. Pro teams attend combines to identify players who may not be on their radar but who might be able to fill out roster spots and help their team. Scouts were uniformly impressed by the level of talent on display at the Fusion combine.
Preston Gayton, a scout from Real Salt Lake (and its USL Championship affiliate Real Monarchs) came to the combine looking for left backs and wingers. “This is our first time being represented at this combine,” said Gayton. “We’re very impressed with how professionally it’s run. The level of talent is good and there are definitely some guys out here we’re looking at. We have some openings we’re (looking to fill). We’ll definitely be coming back in the future.”
Over the next several weeks, the Fusion staff will facilitate outreach between players and Gayton and the other scouts. Fusion coaches will also look to add players to the club’s USL Academy team for players 16 years and older, and to its USL 2 team.
“There was a good mix of talent levels throughout the combine and we did see quite a few strong candidates ,” said Mike Elias, Director of Fusion’s USL Academy and head coach for their USL2 team. “This combine is a must for any player who wants to play at the very highest level and aspires to become a professional soccer player. It allows you to play soccer in a competitive environment in front of professional coaches who are looking to fill their rosters. It’s the perfect environment.”
For more information on the Ventura County Fusion, visit https://www.vcfusion.com.
Ventura County Fusion