Santa Barbara soccer legend Rudy Ybarra has accepted the position as head coach of the Ventura County Fusion of the Premier Development League.
Ybarra replaces Ole Mikkelsen, who stepped down after guiding the Fusion to a pair of Southwest Division titles, three PDL postseason berths, three U.S. Open Cup berths and a 37-12-9 overall record.
“I have already started to recruit players for the Fusion and will do my best to put together the best possible Fusion team for next PDL season,” Ybarra told Presidio Sports.
The Fusion is made up primarily of college players. Several players from UCSB have played for the club during its spring-summer season.
Ybarra is very familiar with the Fusion and the PDL. He was an assistant coach for the club during its inaugural season in 2007. He becomes the club’s third coach, following Mikkelsen and Graham Smith, who is the current team president.
“We are absolutely delighted that Rudy has given the green light to come and join us,” Smith told the Ventura County Star. “I firmly believe that this will signify a new era for the Fusion.”
Ybarra is looking forward to continuing the success of the team.
“Graham and Ole have done a really good job of doing what this league is all about — developing players and moving them on,” he said. “The Fusion has definitely made their mark in this league and has a reputation now of developing players and having a winning tradition. … I have a challenge, I’ve got to keep that tradition going.”
One of Ybarra’s former players at Santa Barbara High, Rodrigo Perez, played for the Fusion and was a member of the PDL national championship team in 2009.
Ybarra plans to bring in Westmont men’s soccer coach Dave Wolf as his top assistant.
Recently, Ybarra has been coaching with the Santa Barbara Soccer Club. This summer he guided the club’s boys Under-14 team to a U.S. Youth Soccer national championship.
Ybarra, 54, was two-time CIF Player of the Year on back-to-back championship teams at Santa Barbara High in 1975 and 1976, and he served as Lito Garcia’s 18-year-old assistant coach on the 1977 title-winning team.
After a 10-year pro soccer career, he returned to Santa Barbara and coached at SBHS. He guided the team to a CIF championship in 1995.
After stepping down as coach for the Dons, Ybarra got into the business of marketing and promoting professional soccer matches in California and throughout the country. He’s brought several first division clubs from Mexico to the U.S. for matches.
The Fusion also is known for inviting professional teams from overseas. The club has played Everton, Burnley, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion of the English Premier League. It’s also played several Major League Soccer clubs, including Chivas USA and the L.A. Galaxy.
Ybarra said he’s interested in helping the Fusion combine its youth and PDL development strategies and begin producing many of its own players.