Second-half goals by Nathaniel Opoku and Marley Edwards led the Ventura County Fusion to a 2-1 victory over the Long Island Rough Riders in the USL League Two national championship game Saturday night in front of a packed house at Ventura College.
The national title was the second for the Fusion, which won the final of the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid in 2009 when it was known as the USL Premier Development League.
After finishing second in the Southwest Division with an 8-2-2 record, the Fusion entered the 32-team tournament as the fifth seed in the Western Conference and had won eight straight games entering Saturday night’s final. The Rough Riders, featuring East Coast college players, advanced to the title game after winning the Eastern Conference with a record of 15-1-2.
After a scoreless first half, Justin Weiss scored at the 54-minute mark to give the Rough Riders a 1-0 lead.
Just five minutes later, Sergio Villapando, a 16-year-old native of Oxnard and Fusion Academy product, drove down the right side of the field to the touchline before dumping a pass to Opoku directly to the right of the goal. Opoku, with his back to goal, controlled the pass and floated a deftly weighted bicycle kick over goalie Wessel Speel’s head and into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
“This has been a great journey,” said Fusion head coach Mike Elias. “We shared it with a great group of boys, and this is the ultimate. I said to them the first day that we were in the training room that I wanted to win everything this year. Guess what, we won everything this year. It’s absolutely superb. They surprised me, they stepped up to the challenge and they are just a fantastic group of boys.”
Michael Elias was born in the UK in Fulham the son of Aristos from Holetria, Paphos and Victoria from Corfu Town, Corfu and he grew up in Enfield where he attended Arnos Secondary School
Michael is married to Lori and father of 4 girls, Andrea, Alex, Athena and Drew and two grandsons, Christian Michael & Lorenzo, Michael Moved to Los Angeles, California in 2001 recruited by MLS (Major League Soccer). He Worked for MLSC as a coach then Regional Manager for Southern California bringing the game to grass roots soccer (I know… its football!)