Asked how he plans to juggle his team’s midweek cup match with an important league finale this weekend, Rudy Ybarra didn’t hesitate.
“We’re going to win,” the Ventura County Fusion coach said.
So the Fusion may be bringing the trophy to Tuesday’s second Ventura County Cup, presented by the Ventura County Star, at California Lutheran University’s Rolland Stadium.
But they’re also focused on leaving FC Hasental’s first home match against its cross-county opposition with the year-old trophy still in its possession.
“We’re not taking this game lightly,” Ybarra said. “We’ve talked about this game from the moment it was scheduled again. We want to make sure that the Fusion continues to win the cup and represents the best of Ventura County.”
It will be the third meeting between the county’s top two soccer teams. The Fusion plays in the USL Premier Development League and is based in Ventura. Hasental, which means “Conejo Valley” in German, plays in the National Premier Soccer League and is based in Thousand Oaks.
Which is why a unique cup match is needed to bring the county’s top two soccer teams together. Kickoff is at 8 p.m.
“It’s one game and it’s bragging rights for the year,” Hasental coach Eric Warner said about the matchup against “the self-proclaimed ‘Pride of the 805,’ ” referencing the moniker the Fusion prints on its orange-and-blue scarves.
The event is a 90-minute match with a 30-minute extra time period and penalty kicks, if necessary. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and $2 for children under 12.
The Star will honor its 2016 all-county boys and girls soccer teams at halftime.
While the teams are officially in the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid, there will be plenty of talent on display.
Between Fusion alums Gyasi Zardes, Emmanuel Boateng, Daniel Steres and Brian Rowe and Hasental product Rafael Garcia there are five players on the current Los Angeles Galaxy roster produced by these two teams.
The Fusion has to go to Tucson Saturday in a match that may determine whether it reaches the PDL playoffs for the eighth straight season.
But that doesn’t mean Ybarra plans to pull any punches Tuesday night, which he considers too important to overlook.
“We’ve talked about it with (GM Ranbir Shergill) and the players,” Ybarra said. “We know how important it is to the franchise. … We have to be the No. 1 team in the county.
“We have to travel to Tucson. We’ll make some adjustments in the starting 11. At the same time, the team that we will put out are players that we feel will do well and win the game.”
The Fusion (7-3-3) sit in third place in the PDL’s Southwest Division, but have been hot over the past six weeks after a slow start.
Meanwhile, Tuesday represents the final match of the season for Hasental, which wrapped up a disappointing NPSL campaign last week. Los Conejos (3-7-2) finished fifth in the NPSL’s Southwest Conference.
“It was a poor season from us,” Warner said. “We found ways to lose. We spent the season asking ourselves, ‘Are we underachieving?’
“This game for us is the opportunity to prove to ourselves that we are who we think we are, which is a much better team than our record shows.”
While the Fusion has been focused on the conclusion to its league campaign, Hasental, having finished its NPSL slate on June 26, is focused on this one match.
“If anything they’ll probably be in better timing, they’ll be playing games,” Warner said last month. “We’ll be focusing in them. … We’re not going to be fighting for anything else but this game. The players can lock in on this and mark that date on the calendar.”
While the Fusion have had recent Buena High graduate Chairot “Lucky” Puengrod featured this season, the Hasental lineup should be mostly Ventura County products, including the potential all-Oxnard midfield of Alberto Anguiano (Pacifica High/Oxnard College), Victor Magana (Channel Islands High/Oxnard College) and Adolfo Magana (Channel Islands). Simi Valley youngsters Isaiah Garza-Bolton and Tyler Watson could also see the field for Los Conejos.
The Fusion have won the teams’ two previous meetings dramatically.
In the inaugural Ventura County Cup match a year ago, Michael Roman equalized with five minutes to play and substitute Nick DePuy headed home the winner with less than two minutes remaining in extra time to lift the Fusion 2-1, after Cameron Artigliere’s opener gave Hasental a lead it would hold for 77 minutes.
Hasental also took the lead twice in the teams’ first meeting, but the Fusion prevailed 3-2 in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup on Dylan Riley’s 50-yard pass to set up Chase Minter’s match-winning diving header with three minutes to play.
But those two matches were held at Ventura College. Will the teams’ first meeting above the Conejo Grade tilt the result toward an upset?
“It’s still Ventura County and we carry that name,” Ybarra said. “We’re still going to try to go and defend our hometown. We still have the rights to the territory.”
The Ventura County Cup
Who: Ventura County Fusion vs. FC Hasental
What: A 90-minute match with 30 minutes of extra time and penalty kicks, if necessary, between Ventura County’s top two soccer teams.
When: Wednesday night, 8 p.m.
Where: California Lutheran University’s Rolland Stadium
Tickets: $8 for adults, $5 for students and $2 for children under 12.