Fusion hosting Sacramento, retiring Lopez jersey in season opener

VENTURA – Ventura County Fusion is pleased to announce its first game of 2015, an exhibition match against Sacramento Republic FC on Monday, February 9th at the Ventura College Sportsplex. Kickoff is scheduled for 7PM. Tickets are available at VCFusion.com, and cost $10 for adults and $5 for youths.

In its first season, Sacramento Republic won the USL PRO championship with a roster that featured seven former Fusion players. Seven of those players have returned to Sacramento in 2015, and are scheduled to play in the February match, including midfielders Rodrigo Lopez, James Kiffe, Jack Avesyan, Agustin Cazarez and Ivan Mirkovic, and defenders Harrison Delbridge and Mickey Daly. All played key roles for Fusion during their time with the club.

“Fusion is thrilled to host this ‘homecoming’ game, as we welcome back seven fan favorites who gave so much to this franchise,” Fusion GM Ranbir Shergill said, “Our main goal is developing talented players into professionals, and we believe it’s ‘mission accomplished,’ with these young men who are now competing at the next level.”

Tickets for this friendly match are available immediately and can be purchased on Fusion’s website or by calling the Fusion Ticket Office at (805)830-8005. Tickets for this match cost $10 for Adults and $5 for Youths, but fans are encouraged to purchase 2015 Fusion Season Tickets, which cost just $65 for Adults and $35 for Youths, and include a free VC Fusion scarf. Season tickets allow entrance to all Fusion matches in 2015, including PDL & US Open Cup games, as well as all exhibition matches.

During halftime of the February 9 Fusion–Sacramento friendly, Sacramento midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, a Santa Barbara native, will be the first player to ever be inducted into the Fusion Hall of Fame. Lopez played for Fusion on multiple occasions, and In 2009, helped the club win the PDL Championship, scoring an injury-time winner in a quarterfinal victory over Kitsap Pumas in Texas. Lopez also lead Fusion to the 3rd Round of the US Open Cup in 2012.

“I want to thank Ventura County Fusion for inducting me into their Hall of Fame, a club that I have so much love and respect for, a club that helped me develop and reach the highest level,” Lopez said, “VC Fusion is not only the best PDL club, but best farm club in the country, so to be the first player inducted into the Hall of Fame is truly a priviliedge.”

Lopez added, “Winning my first championship as a pro with VC Fusion was one of my greatest moments on the pitch. Thank you Fusion players, staff, and especially Ranbir Shergill for opening doors for me when needed most.”

Former Fusion Head Coach Graham Smith, now Technical Director for Sacramento Republic FC, ensured that “Roro” would be Sacramento’s first signing in 2013.

“When Sacramento was looking for its first signing, we outlined a number of characteristics. Roro possessed all of them,” Smith said, “Now he’s the top midfielder in USL Pro. Roro’s contributions to Fusion and Sacramento both have been tremendous, I’m so proud of him and the player he has become.”

Lopez was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and emigrated to the United States at a young age, only to return to Mexico in 2003 when he joined the Chivas de Guadalajara youth academy. Lopez signed a developmental contract with Chivas USA in 2005, and made eight appearances in Major League Soccer, before leaving the club. During his time with the Chivas organizations, Lopez made multiple appearances with the US U-18 & U-20 national teams. Current Fusion Head Coach and fellow Santa Barbaran Rudy Ybarra played a key part in Lopez’ development.

“Roro Lopez is an example of what a soccer player must go through to make it to the pro level,” Fusion Head Coach and Long-time Advisor Rudy Ybarra said, “His commitment to his personal career and to the Fusion is top level. Here at Fusion we are very proud of Roro and wish him all the best on and off the field.”

After helping lead Fusion to the 2009 PDL Title, Lopez played with multiple United Soccer Leagues teams, including Portland Timbers, Orlando City and the Los Angeles Blues, before finding a home in Sacramento. Lopez was a 2014 USL PRO MVP finalist, and was named the 2014 USL PRO Championship Match MVP. Lopez also scored a hat trick in Sacramento’s 3-2 semfinal win over LA Galaxy II. Lopez faced Fusion in 2014, setting up both of Sacramento’s goals in the 2nd Round of the US Open Cup, as Sacramento eliminated Fusion from the tournament.

The match is a homecoming for a number of former Fusion standouts, including 2014 captain James Kiffe, who will play his first match in the area since moving to Sacramento Republic after the PDL season. Kiffe had two assists in the 2014 postseason, setting up Thomas Stewart’s 90th minute goal in the USL PRO Championship Game. Kiffe played at UCSB from 2009-2011, and is looking forward to returning to face his former club.

One-time Oxnard College midfielder Ivan Mirkovic is another former Fusion player who will take part in this “Homecoming” match. Mirkovic, a native of Belgrade, Serbia, started 27 matches for Sacramento Republic in 2014, playing the fifth-most minutes on the team. Mirkovic played in 20 matches for Fusion in 2013.

Hakop “Jack” Avesyan played for Fusion from 2009-10 and again in 2013. Avesyan, a San Fernando Valley native, appeared in 20 matches for Sacramento Republic in 2014, starting 11. He also played in the USL First Division with Wilmington Hammerheads in 2011 & 2012. Midfielder Agustin Cazarez spent last season with Fusion, appearing in 12 games before joining Sacramento after the season. Cazarez played one game for Sacramento in 2014, starting the September 6 match against LA Galaxy II.

Defenders Mickey Daly & Harrison Delbridge held down spots in central defense for Fusion in recent years. Daly attended Cal State LA and played for Fusion 2011 & 2012, appearing in 30 games for the club, scoring 3 goals. Delbridge, a Sydney, Australia native, scored Sacramento’s opening goal in the club’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Fusion in the 2014 United States Open Cup. He played seven games for Fusion in 2013.