In a match-up of experience versus youth, experience won out. The Los Angeles Blues, boasting multiple players with MLS experience, defeated the Ventura County Fusion on the strength of a late first half Israel Sesay goal, sending the club forward to a Third Round US Open Cup contest with the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS.
Photo: LA Blues
The Blues were missing two starters from last week’s U.S. Open Cup first round victory due to red cards with Josh Tudela and Leonard Griffin out for this week’s game. Defender Nelson Akwari stepped up and took the leadership role throughout the game by maintaining a strong back line that helped goalkeeper Oscar Dautt preserve the shutout.
“Those guys are talented, but Nelson has been around. We knew he was going to step up and it wasn’t a surprise,” said Sesay.
The Blues controlled the game from the outset of the match, but the Fusion fought back. They had one of their best chances in the 32nd minute when Jake Hustedt headed a cross just wide.
Their misfortune turned into the Blues’ gain in the 45th minute. Blues forward Chukwudi Chijindu had a breakaway stuffed point blank by Fusion goalkeeper Sam Hayden only to have the deflection fall to Israel Sesay. Sesay then faked a shot to lose the defender and scored the lone goal of the game.
“I got an opening and saw the defense coming back. I took a touch and then I took a shot,” Sesay said.
The Fusion had their best opportunity at the beginning of the second half. David Walker beat Blues defender Michael Randolph down the right flank and had a one on one situation with the goalie. His shot beat Dautt in the middle of the box and rolled just wide of the post as the Fusion failed to equalize.
It was an omen of things to come as the Fusion applied pressure throughout the second half and kept the ball on the Blues’ side of the field. Unfortunately the Blues backline held their own throughout the match and did not allow for too many more chances after Hustedt’s shot.
Things did get a tense towards the end as a member of the Fusion’s coaching staff was ejected in the 85th minute and the Fusion’s Gyasi Zardes and the Blues’ Dane Saintus, Chijindu also received cautions to go with Sesay’s card at the beginning of the game.
After the game though, the focus shifted to next week where some Blues’ players will get an opportunity to face off against their former squad. Akwari, Tudela, Griffin, Randolph, Sesay and Chijindu (who is on loan from Chivas USA) all have MLS experience and will get an opportunity to show that the talent gap is not that big between the first and third divisions of the American soccer pyramid.
“We feel (that the talent gap) isn’t that much. We’re going to show everyone what we are capable of doing,” said Sesay.
TheCup.us Match MVP: Israel Sesay
You can follow Nick Gaspar on Twitter @TheNtotheG.
LA: Sesay – 45th min.
17′: Sesay (LA)
62′: Chijindu (LA)
90+1′: Saintus (LA)
90+2′: Zardes (VC)
85′: coach (VC) (straight)
Shots Saves Fouls Corners
Blues: 9 Blues: 3 Blues: 17 Blues: 3
Fusion: 8 Fusion: 3 Fusion: 17 Fusion: 4