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Ventura County Fusion Defeat Central Valley Fuego FC 2 1-0 With Late Goal

Penalty in the 77th minute provides the game-winner

The Ventura County Fusion defeated Central Valley Fuego FC 2 on Sunday 2-1 on a late penalty kick by Julian Madrigal. The win takes the Fusion’s record to 2-0-1 for the season and puts the team in second place in the USL League Two West Division Southwestern conference.

Fusion head coach Mike Elias made two changes to his starting eleven from the Fusion’s last game versus the SoCal Seahorses, inserting Hunter Slingsby and Lawrence Kwazema into the lineup for Thaabit Baartman and Julio Rubio. Fusion came out aggressively, dominating possession for the first 20 minutes of the game. The Ventura side was able to create several scoring chances, the best of which was a free-kick from midfielder Bastien Oberli in the 7th minute that hit the crossbar.

Fuego FC eventually hit its stride and the rest of the first half became a slog with neither team being able to play out of the back and instead resorting to kicks over the top. Any type of possession was hard to find, and neither team created many chances in the minutes leading up to halftime. The best came at the 46-minute mark when Farrington was fouled by a Fuego FC defender at the top of the 18-yard box, resulting in a free-kick from a dangerous position. Farrington, however, chucked the kick over the crossbar and the two teams left the field for halftime in a scoreless draw.

“Looking at Central Valley going into the game, we knew that so far they’d had an up and down season,” said Elias. “So when you play a team who's had a mixed bag of results, you don’t really know what to expect. We went out with a really attacking lineup and a mindset of bringing the game to them, but we struggled to get a foothold. I wouldn’t say it was a messy game, but it was an even game and not one that we expected. Just a different kind of energy. Sometimes, it’s not down to tactics, but rather just the energy that’s put out by players on the field. All credit to Central Valley.”

In the second half, Elias changed his formation from a 3-5-2 to a 4-2-3-1 to get his midfielders on the ball and give them a better chance of connecting with the front line. He also shuffled his lineup, bringing in four substitutes to fortify the Fusion attack including forward Julian Madrigal and 16-year-old academy product Sergio Villalpando. Still, neither team was able to put together a sustained attack until the 79th minute when Villalpando, who had replaced Farrington up top, received a cross from Salaudeen Ayinla, cut toward the Fuego goal and was fouled inside the box. Madrigal stepped up to take the corner and blasted it past the Fuego goalkeeper to put the Fusion up 1-0, a lead that held up the rest of the game.

The win is the second road victory for the Fusion and brings the club’s points total to seven. Fusion occupy second place in the USL League Two West Division Southwestern conference standings, trailing Project 510, who have played four games to the Fusion’s three, by two points.

“Going away to Fresno and coming back with three points was a huge plus for us,” said Elias. “Three games in a row we’ve played away from home and we've earned seven points in those three games, so the players have done tremendously well. They’ve responded to what we’re trying to do.”

Next Home game: The Fusion plays its home opener Friday, June 3 at Ventura College against the So Cal Seahorses. The game starts at 7 pm. For the first home game only (Friday June 3rd) , it will be free admission to all attendees as a celebration of the return of League 2 after the 2020 & 2021 seasons were canceled due to covid.

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