The Ventura County Cup is going above the Conejo Grade for the first time.
The Ventura County Fusion will bring the trophy with them on July 12, when FC Hasental will host the second Ventura County Cup, presented by the Ventura County Star, at California Lutheran University’s Rolland Stadium.
“It’s just good for local soccer in Ventura County,” Fusion general manager Ranbir Shergill said. “Obviously, it’s great exercise to be able to bring two local teams together who normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to play against each other.”From that point of view, it’s good. A lot of the players know each other, which always adds to the spice a little bit.”
Having played a pair dramatic games over the past three seasons, the two teams have spawned the beginnings of an on-field rivalry, to go along with their off-the-field jockeying for players and attention.
“There’s a nice little edge to it,” Hasental coach Eric Warner Bergman said. “I don’t think we really like them a whole lot. I don’t think they like us a whole lot. It’s fun to not like your neighbors.
“But to counter that, I think there’s mutual respect.”
They are the county’s two teams in the fourth tier of America soccer, although they are based on opposite ends of the county and play in separate continent-wide leagues.
The Fusion, based in Ventura, plays in the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League. Hasental, which means “Conejo Valley” in German, is based in Thousand Oaks and plays in the National Premier Soccer League.
But they have come together to play two riveting matches over the past three years.
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 as the Fusion came from behind for a 2-1 win in the inaugural Ventura County Cup match last July.
“It was an entertaining game, as well,” Shergill said. “One-off games are always entertaining. You know there’s going to be value there for those that are in attendance.”
Hasental led for 77 minutes after Cameron Artigliere opened the scoring in the ninth minute and goalkeeper Nicholas Shackelford kept the Fusion off the scoreboard by making three point-blank saves.
“It was exciting and competitive,” Warner said. “There was a lot of emotion and passion and intensity, which is always good. … Hopefully, we can keep it going. I’m sure we will.”
Hasental took the lead twice in the teams’ first All-Ventura County showdown, a 3-2 Fusion win in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.
Agustin Cazarez and Gustavo Villalobos twice gave Los Conejos the lead. Frankie Lopez and Patrick Otte equalized for the Fusion, who needed two goals in the final 13 minutes to pull off a come-from-behind win.
Dylan Riley’s 50-yard pass set up Chase Minter’s match-winning diving header with three minutes to play.
“We’re proud to be a sponsor of the matchup between these two cross-county rivals,” said Monica White, the Star’s director of consumer sales and marketing. “Last year, the Fusion took home the cup when the game was held in Ventura. Now that the match is in Hasental’s home city, it should no doubt be just as exciting.”
The event is one 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.
Cal Lutheran will host the event in its 5-year-old Rolland Stadium. Ventura College hosted last year’s match.
“California Lutheran University is proud to serve as the host of the Ventura County Cup,” CLU athletic director and men’s soccer coach Dan Kuntz said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to watch professional-level soccer in the Conejo Valley.”
The Fusion, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary season, played a handful of games at Newbury Park High early in its history. Shergill said the Fusion is excited to play “in the state-of-the-art facilities” of Rolland Stadium.
“We’re excited about the prospect of playing there,” Shergill said. “People in the Thousand Oaks area know the Fusion. This is an opportunity for them now to come and watch us.”