Kennedy Chongo and Peter Gregory scored second half goals as the Fusion reversed a 1-0 deficit before 200 fans at the Ventura College Sportsplex.
“If we’re making history, it’s because the organization is getting great leadership,” Fusion coach Rudy Ybarra. “That starts at the top with ownership. We’re seen as one of the best PDL teams in the country.”
Since falling on penalty kicks to the Arizona Suaharos (USASA) in 2010, the local Premier Development League has beaten Doxa Italia (USASA), Fullerton Rangers (NPSL), FC Hasental (NSPL) and Aguiluchos (NPSL) in consecutive years.
The Sacramento Republic, an expansion team in USL Pro that have five Fusion alumni on its roster, will visit Ventura in Wednesday’s second round.
The reunion was in jeopardy after the opening 45 minutes.
Two giveaways at the back within seconds of each other allowed Aquiluchos forward Jorge Ruiz to slot the opening goal into an empty net in just the fifth minute.
The Oakland-based National Premier Soccer League side put forth a starting XI that included striker Rudis Corrales, who had 77 appearances and 17 goals for El Salvador over the past decade. His resume includes a record five goals in a World Cup qualifier against Anguilla and a goal against the US national team in a 2010 friendly.
Aquiluchos’ solid first half forced Ybarra to use two of his three substitutes at the break.
Chongo and midfielder Steve Palacios opened the second half on the field, transforming the Fusion attack by combing with Gregory, winger James Kiffe and playmaker Johnny Lopez.
They earned the Fusion an equalizer in the 53rd minute as Chongo flicked a ball forward for an on-rushing Lopez. The ball was batted out of the air by the hand of a defender and Chongo slotted home the resulting penalty kick with ease.
Ventura County took the lead 12 minutes later, when Chongo’s rebound fell for Gregory to tap in at the near post.
Aquiluchos argued that the goal was offsides even more fervently than they did the earlier penalty decision. The visitors were even more unhappy when Francisco Mendoza’s potential equalizer was nullified by the offsides flag in the 70th minute.
Ybarra refused to render an opinion on the match’s controversies. But did argue that the Fusion proved to be the better team by creating more chances.
“You saw the difference in the second half,” Ybarra said. “We controlled the tempo. We had to withstand the little storm there, but the game should have been over prior to that. We created plenty of chances and that’s a good sign.”
Full game replay