In a showdown of two Los Angeles area clubs, it was a true back and forth affair with the visiting FC Hasental side taking the lead twice before ultimately falling 3-2 on a late goal from the Ventura County Fusion, sending them on to face the Los Angeles Blues of USL Pro in Round 2.
With the win, the Fusion made history by tasting victory in three straight Open Cup tournaments. The Michigan Bucks (1999-2001) are the only other amateur team to win at least one game in three consecutive tournaments during the Modern Professional Era (1995-present).
The dramatic contest started to heat up near the half-hour mark when Agustin Cazarez nearly put Hasental up in the 27th minute with a shot that rang off the woodwork and was subsequently cleared away from the line by defender Dylan Riley.
Cazarez, however, would find the opener 12 minutes later. A ball over the top sent Alberto Anguiano down the left edge of the box all alone. He turned his gaze inside the box and seeing a nearing defender crossed it into the area where it was brought down at the penalty mark by a Fusion defender, who fell after making the hard twist back to make the play. The ball, consequently, was left wide open for the incoming Cazarez, who ripped it home from 11 yards out.
Two minutes before the break it appeared the hosts would have a perfect chance to pull even when Peter Schmetz was taken down while attempting to cross the ball within the area, but Hagop Chirishian’s spot kick to the lower left was denied by Hasental keeper Trey Mitchell.
The equalizer, however, did come just before the intermission for the Fusion when Ema Boateng, after being fouled, launched a free kick toward the far post where Frankie Lopez got his head on it to make things even.
Hasental again had some quality chances initially in the second half, chief among them being a shot from Ruben Rodriguez in the 63rd that forced a dynamic save from Sam Hayden.
Despite the pressure, it was an unexpected quick play that resulted in the visitors reclaiming the lead four minutes later. A bouncing ball was cleared out by the Hasental center back and headed forward at midfield over the defense, putting Gustavo Villalobos, who scored twice in the opening round a week ago, through in a goal similar to the club’s tallies last week.
The Fusion, though, would get another chance to pull even from the penalty spot after defender Connor Dreschler was fouled in the area by Kleber Ortiz. This time Patrick Otte put away the subsequent penalty in the 77th minute to create a tension-filled final 13 minutes.
Hasental nearly took the lead again five minutes later when Armando Gaitan slipped a 40-yard free kick narrowly over the crossbar, but it was Ventura County who would find the winner.
In the 87th minute Riley drove forward and sent a fantastic cross in to Chase Minter, who finished with a diving header. The Fusion nearly added another in stoppage time for insurance when Chirishian sent a free kick into the upper corner, forcing a brilliant save from Mitchell a minute into the added-on time.
HAS: Agustin Cazarez (Alberto Anguiano) 39
VC: Frankie Lopez (Ema Boateng) 45
HAS: Gustavo Villalobos 65
VC: Patrick Otte (pen) 77
VC: Chase Minter (Dylan Riley) 87
HAS: Joel Contreras (yellow) 33
VC: Kip Colvey (yellow) 63
VC: Sam Hayden; Kip Colvey, Connor Drechsler, Peter Schmetz, Dylan Riley; Patrick Otte, Hagop Chirishian, Manny Guzman (Steve Palacios 55); Ema Boateng (Artur Aghasyan 65), Chase Minter, Frankie Lopez
HAS: Trey Mitchell; Ruben Rodriguez, Sebastian Rivas, Kleber Ortiz (Ericson Penate 88), Joel Contreras; Agustin Cazarez, Alberto Rosas, Armando Gaitan (Milan Radovic 45); Gustavo Villalobos, Alberto Anguiano, Manuel Cazares (Liviu Leu 77)