Dream start for Fusion

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Any season begins with a hint of trepidation.

Will the decisions made during the offseason really bear out on the field like they were envisioned?

In the case of the 2011 Ventura County Fusion men's soccer team, the answer, thus far, has been a resounding yes.

The Fusion have opened the season with a flourish, leading the 64-team Premier Development League with 19 goals scored and a plus-16 goal difference.

"You never know what's going to happen until a ball is kicked," said Fusion general manager Ranbir Shergill. "But to see the planning come to fruition in this manner, you can't hope for anything more."

Since opening the season with a scoreless draw against visiting Fresno, the Fusion have been thoroughly entertaining, averaging nearly five goals per game.

"We've had a dream start and we just have to keep it going," said Shergill.

Striker Mark MaGee leads the PDL with five goals and is second in points with 10.

Attacking midfielder Danny Barrera, a Westlake High graduate, and fellow UC Santa Barbara product David Walker are tied for second in the PDL in assists with three apiece.

Striker Reed Williams and midfielder Andy Rose, both UCLA products, are tied for 12th with seven points apiece

"It's kind of the vision that we set out from the outset," said Shergill. "We want to play good, attractive soccer so people will come watch us play."

The Fusion's 7-2 romp over Orange County Friday set the franchise record for goals in a game.

The previous record came in the PDL semifinals on Aug. 1, 2008, one week before the Fusion won the PDL continental title at Buena High, when Rodrigo Lopez inspired the Fusion's 6-1 thrashing of the Bradenton Academics at the Texas A&M International University Soccer Complex in Laredo, Texas.

Lopez, who is now with the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, had two goals and an assist.

"We know we're not going to win every game by a load of goals, because that's not the way it works," said Shergill. "We just have to keep playing good soccer and getting the results."

U.S. Open update: With 13 points from five matches, Ventura County (4-0-1) finds itself a point back of Fresno (4-0-2) with a match in hand.

The defending Southwest Division champion can return atop the standings Saturday night with a win against the host Southern California Seahorses at La Mirada High.

But the road trip holds greater importance. It will determine whether the Fusion qualify for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second straight year.

Fresno has swept its four qualifiers with a plus-10 goal difference.

Having swept its three qualifiers with a plus-9 goal difference, the Fusion can qualify from its eight-team group by winning by a two-goal margin or by scoring three or more goals in a win.

Reinforcements imminent: It may not be needed at the moment, but the Fusion squad has been strengthened by the return of former Hueneme High and Oxnard College star Gabriel Gonzalez, who was on trial abroad with German club Arminia Bielefeld this month; the arrival of UC Santa Barbara defender James Kiffe, who trained with the Fusion Tuesday; and the imminent arrival of another defender, former Denmark youth international Michael Sten, formerly of Danish power Aalborg BK.

"It was a fantastic experience," said Gonzalez.

Farfan scores: Fusion alumnus Michael Farfan scored his first Major League Soccer goal Saturday in the Philadelphia Union's 2-1 win over the visiting Chicago Fire, drilling a 25-yard shot low off a set piece.

The goal was nominated for MLS Goal of the Week. Farfan was a two-time NSCAA All-American at North Carolina in 2009 and 2010.

Both Farfan twins, Michael and Gabriel, who combined for six goals and three assists for the Fusion in 2007 and 2008, are rookies with the expansion MLS club.

© 2011 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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