Who's on first?
Another goal in sight for Ventura’s only professional team
By Chris Jay 07/18/2013
It takes only a drive past a Ventura County park on the weekend to know this area is crazy for “the real football,” soccer. With the sport’s popularity, especially in the area’s large Latino community, it’s fitting that the only professional sports team that calls the county home — outside of the Dallas Cowboys’ supercool but somewhat bizarre midsummer vacation in Oxnard — is a soccer team, The Ventura County Fusion.
While one could get technical and say the Fusion is more or less a minor league team, the bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, it’ll be our only professional sports team, and therefore it deserves the area’s love and affection. Now is as good a time as any to get on the Fusion bandwagon, too, as it’s on the brink of yet another team milestone, potentially heading to the playoffs for a fifth straight year. That all depends, however, on what happens Friday at the regular season home finale against the L.A. Misioneros.
What type of playoffs, you ask? The Fusion plays in the Premier Development League’s Western Conference’s Southwest Division, which is an official operation of United Soccer Leagues as well as being a mouthful to say and understand. To simplify, the PDL is a lot like Major League Baseball’s minor leagues, featuring 68 teams organized into four regional conferences, each with two divisions, across the United States and Canada.
The Fusion’s regular season consists of 16 divisional games, eight home and eight away, with hopes to follow that with playoffs and a championship title game. Consisting of elite amateur and collegiate players who have the chance to experience higher levels of competition while still maintaining their college eligibility, Fusion members tend to play for one or two seasons at most, and players have come from all over the world to make Ventura their home for the summer.
The Fusion organization has proven to be an important stepping stone for top professionals now playing around the world at the sport’s elite level in leagues like United States Soccer Federation, Major League Soccer and the famed English Premier League, which, for many across the United Kingdom, is more or less a religion. The team has earned a reputation for its management’s drive, professionalism and connections, allowing it to land players that normally might opt for a larger market.
What has put the Fusion on the international soccer map, and Ventura County with it, has been the Fusion’s management’s ability to lure top teams from all over the world, to hold training camps in the area, just so long as the Fusion can have an exhibition match against the visiting club. These “friendlies” are a near-nirvana experience for hard-core soccer fans, who get to see teams that fill arenas in other parts of the world, playing right here in their own backyard for, sometimes, just a few hundred people.
This brings us to the Fusion’s current season. The team is one point away from securing a playoff spot, meaning a tie or victory on Friday in front of the home fans will send the team back on its ultimate quest to become champion of the entire PDL, which it previously accomplished in 2009, to the shock of nearly everyone, in only their third year of existence.
It’s a lofty goal, of course, but if any team can pull off a miracle, it’s without question our own boys of summer, in the blue and orange jerseys, whose very existence defies the odds.
Ventura County Fusion takes on The L.A. Misioneros in the final home game of the season, Friday, July 19, at Ventura College Sports Complex. For more information and tickets, visit www.vcfusion.com.
Who’s on first? is a monthly column featuring local sports-related stories. If there is an athlete, team or sporting event in Ventura County we should know about, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.