Ventura County Fusion emerged from a wild game with local rivals LA Blues in the Second Round of the US Open Cup. The game at Sherbeck Field on the campus of Fullerton College required 120 minutes and featured two sendings off before the Fusion won 3-1. The victory avenges the Blues’ 1-0 triumph in the 2011 Open Cup and provides Ventura County with a match against Major League Soccer side Chivas USA on May 29 at Ventura College.
LA Blues entered the game without the services of newly arrived striker Bright Dike, who is on loan from the Portland Timbers. Dike traveled back to Portland to take part in a friendly against Valencia CF on Wednesday and was thus unavailable for his new team, for whom he has already scored and assisted in two games this season.
The scoring opened in the 14th minute when Ventura County’s Tim Pontius put a ball into his own net, ceding the lead to LA. The Premier Development League side responded through Frankie López, whose penalty in the 35th minute leveled the score at 1-1.
Ventura County nearly took the lead in the 50th minute when Kennedy Chongo’s header narrowly missed the target. The Fusion had repeated attempts on goal midway through the second half as López and Daniel Steres provided the shots.
Maykel Galindo came on for LA Blues in the 66th minute. The former Chivas USA and FC Dallas striker almost scored within moments of his entry, and gave the Blues a renewed attacking presence as they tried to win the game in regular time.
Perhaps the most important sequence in the second half came when Steres fouled LA midfielder Irving Garcia in the 83rd minute. Fusion goalkeeper Earl Edwards saved Allan Russell’s resulting penalty, keeping the score even at 1-1. Just two minutes later, the Blues had Cory Miller sent off for his second yellow card. Instead of taking the lead and keeping eleven men on the pitch, LA went a man down and remained on level terms.
Full-time saw the two sides retreat to their respective benches to regroup for two fifteen-minute overtime periods. In the 97th minute, Fusion manager Ole Mikkelsen was sent off for roaming beyond his appointed technical area. Without its manager and a man up, Ventura County attacked.
López had the best chance of the first overtime, firing just wide late in the period. Just two minutes into the second overtime, the 23-year old midfielder finally put the Fusion ahead with a 107th minute goal. That strike proved to be the match winner, but not the final action of the highly competitive affair.
Edwards survived late LA attempts an equalizer with a double save of Russell and George Davis. The Fusion finally got space enough to enjoy when Travis Bowen scored on a rebounded from a Chongo shot in the 116th minute. The 3-1 score line held in favor of eleven-man Ventura County and the Fusion celebrated advancing to the Third Round.
Bowen will get chance to oppose his brother Tristan when Chivas USA travel to the northwest next Tuesday. For their part, Chivas crashed out of the Open Cup in the first MLS qualifying round in 2011.