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DOXA ITALIA FALLS TO VC FUSION IN OPENING ROUND OF 2011 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP

junio 15, 2011

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Exclusive Article for CalSouth.com by Joe Curley

VENTURA, California (June 15, 2011) - The opening round match of the 2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup pitted Doxa Italia's experienced minds against the young legs of the Ventura County Fusion. So it was with a measure of irony that four-time Coast Soccer League champion and four-time State Cup champion Doxa took the early lead Tuesday night at the Ventura College Sportsplex.

Chasing down a lost cause, veteran Irish winger Bryan Byrne gave visiting Doxa Italia a 1-0 lead when Fusion goalkeeper Sam Hayden's clearance struck Byrne and ricocheted into the Fusion net in the fifth minute.

Fusion coach Ole Mikkelsen, who had coached the former Fusion winger for three years, labeled Byrne "The Ghost of Soccer Past." "Byrnie is that type of player," said Mikkelsen. "He works hard… You expect that type of effort from him."

Ultimately, it was an effort the current Region IV Men's Open Cup champion could not maintain as the Fusion, made up primarily of UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo stars, scored three unanswered goals to advance to the second round with a 3-1 win.

"We had a great start," said Doxa Italia midfielder Devon Toohey, "but as the game goes on, your legs get tired, and that's their game."

Toohey, a Ventura native who actually played for the Fusion in its first match in 2006, was looking for revenge. The one appearance was his only run out for the PDL side. "They're so young," said Toohey. "We had the sore legs out there… I'm dead. My calves are killing me."

Doxa Italia carved out plenty of chances through 38-year-old forward and manager Derk Droze, former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Alex Bengard, former New England Revolution winger Byrne and Toohey. They just weren't able to beat Hayden, the UC Santa Barbara keeper. With a complex training-ground move, Doxa Italia turned the first corner of the match into a chance, but Toohey's shot was blocked down by Fusion defender Dillon Barna.

A nice 1-2 play between Bengard and Droze carved out an opportunity in the 27th minute that was sprayed over the Fusion crossbar. "We had our chances," said Toohey.

The addition of attacker Andre Turoldo made an immediate impact, forcing a save from Hayden in the 65th minute, producing a corner from which Nas Koubouras volleyed off the Fusion post in the 71st, and dancing through the Fusion defense to create chances in the 77th and 79th.

"They were certainly no slouch team," said Fusion defender Barna of Doxa Italia. "They had guys constantly circling in from midfield. I wouldn't say we figured it out, but we were able to slow them down."

Either that or the 20-somethings were just able to hold out longer against the 30-somethings. "You could tell they were fitter," said Byrne. "That's the difference between the levels. They were a little be sharper and moved the ball a lot quicker."

The difference wouldn't have been quite so apparent without a penalty decision just after the half-hour mark, when Fusion midfielder Andy Rose slotted home from the penalty spot moments after midfielder Jacob Hustedt was toppled while chasing an over-hit cross in the Doxa penalty area. "We felt like the decision was a little bit harsh," said Byrne. "The ball was going out of play before the foul happened… That gave them a lift."

From there, the Fusion took the lead two minutes from halftime, when Hustedt ran to the byline and dragged back for Mark Magee to finish, and added a late insurance goal when a defensive mixup allowed UCLA striker Reed Williams an empty net from Hayden's punt. "It was just a game changer," said Toohey of the penalty decision. "Heartbreaker."

While VC Fusion moves forward in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Doxa Italia still has their upcoming slot in the United States Adult Soccer Association Open Cup National Final for which to prepare. The USASA National Cups Finals will be contested in Bowling Green, Kentucky on July 15-17.

Joe Curley also covers soccer for the Ventura County Star and the Scripps Howard News Service. Joe lives in Camarillo with his wife, Rian, and daughter, Vivienne.