Local players lift underdog Fusion to PDL title

A fusion of local collegiate soccer standouts was a big factor in the Ventura County Fusion’s championship season in the United Soccer League’s Premier Developmental League. The Fusion, an underdog which came into the tournament seeded No. 20, played with a man down for 55 minutes but still defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 last weekend.

It was recently graduated UCSB captain Alfonso Motagalvan that played the role of hero, netting the winning goal deep into injury time to send the sellout crowd at Buena High School wild.

Another ex-Gaucho, Ivan Becerra, took a cross from ex-Santa Barbara High star Rodrigo Lopez in the ninth minute to make it 1-0 in favor of Ventura County, but Manny Guzman was slapped with a red card in the 33rd. The Fire took advantage with the equalizer in the 74th.

“We controlled the pace of the game until the red card to Manny Guzman happened (in the thirty-third minute),” said Westmont’s Dillon Barna, another local member of the Fusion. “We were getting chances and got the one goal off the header from Ivan. I thought we were going to add some more and then go home. But we got the red card and had to pull the guys in and play defense the whole game.”

The game-winner came right after a set piece for the fusion in the final minute. Lopez sent the free kick into the box but it was cleared. Barna then got it back and sent it in again, giving Motagalvan the chance to knock it in for the title.

“Our division is a competitive division,” noted Barna. “Within our area you have a bunch of big colleges – UCLA, UCSB, Cal State Fullerton. There are a lot of players looking to go on (in their soccer careers). The fact that we weren’t a high seed really didn’t mean much to us. If you look at our record, we have a lot of ties. It means that a few times we got lucky, a few times we just couldn’t put ourselves over the hump. But we knew that when it came time to do it we could, and we did.”

Other Fusion players with local collegiate ties are Bryan Byrne, Kyle Kaveny and Brennan Tennelle — each of whom was on the Gauchos’ 2006 NCAA Championship squad. Soon-to-be sophomore Danny Barrera is also on the squad.

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