Photo by Ventura County Fusion
The Ventura County Fusion are competing in their 10th PDL regular season, and the past decade has been one to remember for the team based in Southern California.
Founded in 2006, the Fusion have been one of the top teams in the Western Conference since their first season in 2007, winning three division titles and claiming the PDL Championship in 2009. They have reached the PDL playoffs for seven consecutive years, and they currently are third in the Southwest Division with a 6-2-3 record.
While the Fusion’s play in the PDL has stood out, the team’s location and facilities have afforded them many unique experiences throughout the years.
“We are located in an area where the climate is fantastic – 70 degrees year-round on the coast close to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara,” Fusion General Manager Ranbir Shergill said. “We have some excellent facilities that professional teams have been using for their training camps since 2007, including English Premier League, MLS and international teams.”
However, the Fusion does not simply host professional clubs. They also compete against them quite regularly, giving the Fusion players an opportunity at exposure and an opportunity to see how their play compares to those in the professional ranks.
“We are one of the only PDL clubs to have played English Premier League teams and international teams,” Shergill said. “It provides a unique opportunity and experience for our players. The Fusion regularly plays preseason and in-season exhibition matches against some of the top professional teams from around the planet, including world-famous opponents such as Manchester City, Everton FC, West Bromwich Albion, Portsmouth FC, Swansea City and Burnley FC of the English Premier League, Rangers F.C., Independiente of Argentina’s first division, AIK, Hammarby and GAIS of the Swedish first division, Oita Trinita, recent J-League champion, and Club America and Club Tijuana of the Mexican first division.”
The Fusion’s most notable alumnus is the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes, who has scored six goals in 31 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team. However, Sporting Kansas City’s Chance Myers and San Jose Earthquakes’ J.J. Koval are among the many who have gone on to play at the professional level after playing with the Fusion.
“We have strong connections with professional teams all around the globe and have had players placed to play professionally in leagues all over the world, including English Premier League, Liga MX, Allsvenskan in Sweden, lower-level leagues in France, Germany and Belgium and domestically in MLS and USL. To date, we have had over 80 former players receive professional contracts in the past nine seasons.
“Our management staff and coaching staff are very well experienced and have built a lot of relationships over time that helps provide opportunities to players,” Shergill continued. “One example, former coach Graham Smith made a call to David Moyes in 2009 about [former Fusion player] Anton Peterlin, who ended a trial being offered a contract with Everton. This is one of many success stories. We also host pro combines since 2008 and invite professional coaches to look at players we recommend, and this has been very beneficial to both the players and professional teams.”
Reed McKenna and Hofstra University’s Joseph Holland have shined for the Fusion this season. The Pride player leads the team with five goals in eight games, while McKenna has three goals and one assist in 10 matches.
The PDL team is just one part of the Fusion, as they have a youth club academy and field various community soccer programs for players at all levels. The focus for the Fusion is one echoed across all teams in the league: provide a platform for development.
“Winning a national championship was a great moment for the club, and winning the PDL division on multiple occasions in a competitive division is always memorable,” Shergill said. “Our goal is to try to make the playoffs, which we have done the last seven years, but the most satisfying part is when you can help players develop and progress and play at the highest levels.
“The team’s philosophy is to help develop players and provide them with opportunities to try to move on to higher levels,” Shergill continued. “This is achieved by identifying young players to develop, not necessarily to win but to play good creative soccer that is exciting to watch for the fans and that allows the player to be creative and challenged, and, by default, the results will follow.”