Players from Ventura County Fusion and Union Omaha battle for possession. Photo by Cameron Koubek
Premier Division sides returned to the field on Sunday, with some looking to stay unbeaten and others looking to bounce back from opening defeats. On a busy morning of three simultaneous kickoffs, there was plenty of great soccer on display at STAR Complex.
In a matchup of two teams that notched wins by multiple goals on Friday, Union Omaha and Ventura County Fusion battled through a scoreless first half. Omaha would then blow the game open after the break, scoring twice in quick succession and adding a third near the final whistle to earn their second straight 3-0 win. It’s been a very impressive start for Omaha’s academy program, which is playing together for the first time.
Elsewhere, Oklahoma City Energy got off to an excellent start against San Francisco Glens, pressuring high up the pitch early and nabbing a goal that was a fair reflection of their adventurous play. But the Glens would right the ship, scoring four unanswered goals on their way to a comfortable victory.
El Paso Locomotive and Tulsa Roughnecks were both in need of a win after heavy losses in their openers, and they treated fans to an entertaining game as a result. It was a seesaw battle from the start, as El Paso raced to a two-goal advantage but Tulsa quickly pulled a goal back. The Locos would restore their cushion in the second half before a spectacular Roughnecks free kick found the back of the net and set up a tense finish. As Tulsa pushed players forward in search of an equalizer, El Paso’s rapid counter-attack produced the goal that sealed the game, and Locomotive FC walked out 4-2 winners.
Ventura County Fusion players huddle before their match. Photo by Cameron Koubek
After the conclusion of the games, players gathered at Toyota Field for the Pro Pathway Panel, where they heard from experienced coaches, academy directors, and professional soccer players about the potential pitfalls in building a professional soccer career. Moderated by USL Senior Director of Youth Development Liam O’Connell, the panel included Union Omaha’s Jay Mims, Phoenix Rising’s Jon Pearlman, San Antonio FC’s Ryan Roushandel, and Austin Bold’s Sonny Guadarrama.
An OKC Energy player hits a long pass under pressure from a San Francisco Glens player. Photo by Cameron Koubek
The panelists discussed the lack of a defined pathway at the time when they were growing up, and stressed the importance of taking advantage of evolving opportunities like USL Academy that are growing and changing American soccer. Mims emphasized that soccer now is more available than ever, and that young players should play and watch the game as much as possible. Roushandel, who retired from professional soccer earlier this year, said that most professionals hear the word “no” more than they hear the word “yes.” The former San Antonio FC player told the attendees to keep pursuing their dream through the rejections, and to never let someone else be the reason they stop playing soccer.
The inaugural USL Academy Western Conference Event concludes on Monday with all fourteen teams playing their third and final matches. The action kicks off at 8 a.m. CT, with two contests live-streamed by Nutmeg Sports Media on the USL Academy YouTube channel: Austin Bold vs. St. Louis FC (8 a.m. CT) and San Antonio FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC (10 a.m. CT).