SANTA ANA --It looked as if it might be easy going for the Ventura County Fusion in their U.S. Open Cup opener Tuesday night after Michael Roman and Francisco Lopez provided a two-goal lead after just 22 minutes.
It was, at the finish, but getting there was anything but simple.
The Fusion scored four goals in overtime to dismiss the Fullerton Rangers, 6-2, at Santa Ana Stadium and advance to a second-round rematch with the L.A. Blues next week in Norco. The Galaxy and Chivas USA will enter the competition, in its 99th year, in the third round the following week.
It was tougher than it should have been, especially after Roman (Oxnard/Rio Mesa HS and UCLA), who stepped on the field without a practice after arriving from spring training at the University of Louisville, finished a feed from Biola University alum Kennedy Chongo in the 17th minute, and Lopez scored from Chris Tsonis' cutback five minutes later.
Fullerton, from the National Premier Soccer League, rallied to tie the score in the first 23 minutes of the second half -- netting the equalizer while down to 10 men -- but couldn't stay with the 2009 Premier Development League champion for the extra 30 minutes.
“Unfortunately, we make things harder on ourselves than they need to be,” Fusion coach Ole Mikkelsen said. “We had a comfortable 2-nil lead at halftime. If we get the next goal, for all intents and purposes, we can play the game out. But we made two silly mistakes, let them back in the game. ... Clearly, you could see in the overtime period we had the gas and they didn't have the gas.”
Fullerton dominated the start of the second half, even after Sean Toth (Fullerton College/Hope International) was dismissed with his second yellow card in the 63rd minute. By then it was 2-1 -- former Chivas USA/New York Red Bulls forward David Arvizu (Santa Ana/Foothill HS) scored in the 55th minute -- and Cuban striker Eder Roldan netted the equalizer five minutes later with a gorgeous chip into the far-post netting.
It was all Fusion the rest of the way, but they didn't get the winner until the third minute of overtime, a Lopez penalty kick after Leobardo Alvarez, who trialed with New York during MLS's preseason, fouled Chongo, who trialed with Chivas USA.
Chongo made it 4-2 five minutes later, and Daniel Steres (Calabasas/Calabasas HS), a Chivas USA draft choice, and former Chivas/Portland Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez (Santa Barbara/Santa Barbara HS) added goals in the second 15 minutes of the extra period.
“We let them back in the game, and we shouldn't have,” Mikkelson said. “We can't do stuff like that against teams like L.A. Blues, that's for darn sure. If we get a lead, we're going to have to protect it with our lives.”
Next week's game is a rematch of a second-round Open Cup last season, which the Blues won, 1-0. The pro team will have the advantage: It's off this weekend, but Ventura County has PDL games on Friday and Sunday.
“It would have been nice not to go into extra time,” Mikkelsen said. “[The Blues] will be well-rested. We wont be, but we have depth, and hopefully that will come into play.”
In other games involving local clubs:
PSA Elite (Irvine) 3, Portland Timbers U-23 1: 2011 Chicago Fire draft pick Davis Paul (Upland/Damien HS) provided a lead midway through the first half and added a late insurance goal as the U.S. Adult Soccer Association's Region IV champions toppled the 2010 PDL champs at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland. Christian Ramirez (Garden Grove/La Quinta HS and UC Santa Barbara/Concordia) tallied just before halftime for PSA, which will play next week at North American Soccer League cellar dweller Carolina RailHawks.
Cal FC (Thousand Oaks) 3, Kitsap Pumas 1: Danny Barrera (Thousand Oaks/Westlake HS and UC Santa Barbara) scored two goals and former Real Salt Lake forward Artur Aghasyan netted the third as the USASA side -- with head coach Eric Wynalda off in Munich for Fox's coverage of Saturday's UEFA Champions League final -- romped past the defending PDL champs in Bremerton, Wash. Cal FC will play next week at USL Pro side Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads.
SCORELIST: Here are the first-round scores and second-round schedule:
First round (home teams listed first)
Fullerton Rangers (NPSL) 2, Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 6
Portland Timbers U-23 (PDL) 1, PSA Elite (USASA) 3
Kitsap Pumas (PDL) 1, Cal FC (USASA) 3
Stanislaus United Turlock Express (USCS) 0, Fresno Fuego (PDL) 2
Milwaukee Bavarians (NPSL) 1, Des Moines Menace (PDL) 3, OT
Laredo Heat (PDL) 4, ASC New Stars (USASA) 2, OT
Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) 1, K.C. Athletics (USASA) 3
El Paso Patriots (PDL) 3, NTX Rayados (USASA) 1
Orlando City U-23 (PDL) 1, Jacksonville United (NPSL) 2
Reading United AC (PDL) 2, New York Greek-Americans (USASA) 1
FC Sonic (PDL) 0, Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) 2
Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks FC (USASA) 3, Carolina Dynamo (PDL) 1
Michigan Bucks (PDL) 6, Jersey Shore Boca (USASA) 0
Georgia Revolution (NPSL) 1, Mississippi Brilla FC (PDL) 0, OT
GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) 2, Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) 3
Chicago Fire PDL (PDL) 1, Croatian Eagles (USASA) 0
Second round (Tuesday, May 22)
Ventura County Fusion (PDL) vs. L.A. Blues (Riverside Community College, Norco Campus, 4 p.m.)
PSA Elite (USASA) at Carolina RailHawks (NASL)
Cal FC (USASA) at Wilmington Hammerheads (USL Pro)
Fresno Fuego (PDL) at Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL)
Minnesota Stars (NASL) at Des Moines Menace (PDL)
Laredo Heat (PDL) at San Antonio Scorpions (NASL)
K.C. Athletics (USASA) at Orlando City SC (USL Pro)
Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) at El Paso Patriots (PDL)
Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) at Jacksonville United (NPSL)
Reading United AC (PDL) at Charleston Battery (USL Pro)
Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) at Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro)
Richmond Kickers (USL Pro) at Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks FC (USASA)
Michigan Bucks (PDL) at Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL Pro)
Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) at Georgia Revolution (NPSL)
Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) at Rochester Rhinos (USL Pro)
Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) at Chicago Fire PDL (PDL)