Ventura County Fusion Play SoCal Seahorses to Scoreless Draw in Home Opener at Ventura College
The Ventura County Fusion and SoCal Seahorses played to a scoreless draw Friday night in front of 300 fans at Ventura College Stadium. The Fusion is now (2-0-2) on the season and occupies fourth place in the USL League 2 Western Conference Southwest division with eight points.
It was the second time this year that the Fusion and Seahorses have met, and the second draw. In the first meeting, in May at Biola University, the Fusion spent much of the match on the front foot and in the Seahorse's half of the field. Friday night’s match was different with both sides pressing forward and possession divided evenly between the sides.
“They really stepped it up today, and we stepped it up as well,” said Fusion head coach Mike Elias. “It was an intriguing game tactically. We knew how they were going to play, and we countered it. They figured out what we were doing and they tried to counter us so we had to figure out their changes and deal with that. Tactically, it was just an intriguing game.”
The Seahorses seemed determined to clog the middle of the field and make it difficult for the Fusion midfielders to get the ball forward. Fusion holding mids Julian Madrigal and Bastien Oberli probed for openings, but were often forced to play passes level or back in order to keep possession. The Fusion, however, found success down the sides with speedy wingers Nathaliel Opoku and Marley Edwards making intelligent runs and getting in behind the Seahorse backline. Striker Logan Farrington had a chance eight minutes in, receiving a ball down the left side 20 feet from goal. Farrington controlled the pass and got off a shot, but Seahorse defender Izaac Zausch was able to deflect the ball into the hands of Seahorse goalie Mitchell Wilson.
The Seahorses created its best chance of the game when left winger Gerardo de la Torre hit the crossbar in the 28th minute. De La Torre, who plays his college soccer at Soka University, proved dangerous the entire half, bombing up the left side, and causing headaches for Fusion right-back Steve Anderson who worked hard to keep him under control. Several minutes later Jose Garfius also hit the crossbar.
“Quite easily we could have been down 2-0 at the end of the first half,” said Elias. “Although we were the better team in that half.”After a deadlocked first 45 minutes, the Fusion came out in the second with renewed energy, at least partially due to a locker room speech by Elias. “We had to kind of lay into them a little bit at the end of the first half,” said Elias. “But they came out in the second and really, really performed. They cut out a lot of the things that had been working for (our opponent.) We didn’t allow them much space in the middle, countered very fluidly, I thought, and had some opportunities. Putting it in the net was the only thing that was missing today.”
“Second half, we came with a different mindset,” said Fusion defender and captain Geo Calderon. “We tried to pinch in some positions, attack full throttle and take our shots. (Our mindset was) if we have a half shot in the box, take it. Even a toe-poke because who knows where it’s going to go. Take the shot.”
Both teams continued to look dangerous with the opening goal always seemingly just about to happen. Farrington had a shot saved by Wilson and Seahorses midfielder Luan Barbosa sent a free-kick from the top of the Fusion box over the crossbar. At the 28-minute mark (each half was timed separately) Elias gave his lineup an injection of speed, replacing striker Jack Rhead with Abubukar Fofanah. Fofanah, who is one of the Fusion’s quickest and best defenders, unfortunately, drew three quick fouls and was shown a yellow card for persistent infringement. Despite the yellow, Fofanah injected a good deal of pace and aggression into the Fusion lineup and turned the Seahorses’ midfield over repeatedly.
A few minutes after the Fofanah substitution, Elia swapped out Corbin Mercado for Juan Pablo Alvarez on the back line and Farrington with Salaudeen Ayinla up top. Fresh legs pushed Fusion forward and the team looked the more dangerous of the two throughout the last 20 minutes of the game. Fusion created numerous chances in the final 10 minutes, but the Seahorses defense, led by Zausch, kept the ball out of the goal. When the final whistle blew, the teams were still scoreless and each took a point.
With four games played, the Fusion is still undefeated and sit in fourth place in the NISA League 2 Western Conference Southwestern division. The Seahorses occupy second place. The Seahorses, and the other two teams that sit above the Fusion in the standings have each played five games on the year.
The Fusion’s next home game is Friday, June 10 at 7 pm against the San Francisco Glens. For more information, visit vcfusion.com.