VENTURA, Calif. – A game-winning goal in overtime from Victor Munoz guided the Ventura County Fusion to a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers U-23s in the Premier Development League’s Western Conference semifinals at Ventura College on Saturday evening.
In a match featuring two of the Western Conference’s best defensive teams, the Timbers U-23s and Fusion played scoreless through 90 minutes, forcing the match to be decided in extra time. Munoz found the back of the net off a feed from forward Gyasi Zardes three minutes into the overtime period and the Fusion were able to hold off a series of late attempts by the Timbers U-23s to claim a 1-0 win and advance to the Western Conference final.
Munoz, who entered the match as a second-half sub, scored his first goal of the season, Zardes recorded his second assist and goalkeeper Earl Edwards made two saves in the shutout for the Fusion, who will face Seattle Sounders FC U-23 for the conference title on Sunday at Ventura College.
Midfielder Steven Evans took a team-high three shots, while forwards Erik Hurtado and Clark Phillips each attempted two as the Timbers out-shot the Fusion 13-11 in their final match of the season. Portland closed out its 2012 PDL campaign having reached the Western Conference tournament for the second time in the last three seasons.
The Timbers U-23s held a majority of the possession in the first half and it led to a 5-2 advantage in shots, including a quality look from forward Erik Hurtado. Goalkeeper Spencer Richey, however, turned in the biggest play of the half for the Timbers U-23s, making a key save on a penalty kick attempt in the 28th minute after a Portland player had been called for a handball in the box. Spencer turned away a low shot from the spot aimed at the left post to keep the match deadlocked heading into halftime.
Ventura County put Portland under pressure in the second half, forcing Richey to make two of his three saves in the match during the half. The Timbers U-23s, who conceded the fewest goals in the Northwest Division during the regular season, held firm to force overtime as the two teams finished regulation scoreless.
Down 1-0 in overtime, the Timbers U-23s attempted six of their 13 shots on the night during extra time. In the final minutes of the match, forward Emery Welshman had a header just miss the mark and, just before the final whistle, forward Clark Phillips had an open look inside the box knocked off track by a late tackle.
Notes: The Timbers U-23s reached the PDL Western Conference semifinals for the second time in three seasons, last making an appearance in the conference tournament in 2010 … The Fusion earned its first postseason win since winning the PDL championship in 2009 … Against the Fusion, the Timbers U-23s played their first PDL match outside the Northwest … Portland is now 5-2-0 in postseason play … The Timbers U-23s have qualified for the PDL playoffs in three of their first four seasons in the league … A team from the Western Conference has won the PDL championship in each of the last three seasons – Ventura County in 2009, the Timbers U-23s in 2010 and the Kitsap Pumas in 2011.
VCF: Victor Munoz (Gyasi Zardes), 93
POR: GK Spencer Richey, D Brock Granger, D Will Seymore, D Anthony Hobbs (Joey De Mare, 97), D Evyn Hewett, M Cam Vickers (Reed Matte, 79), M Andrew Ribeiro, M Roberto Farfan (Nick Hammer, 58), M Steven Evans (Clark Phillips, 67), F Erik Hurtado (Ricardo Carillo, 112), F Mark Sherrod (Emery Welshman, 79)
Subs not used: GK Keegan Rogers
VCF (Starting XI): GK Earl Edwards, D Michael Daly, D James Kiffe, D Kory Kindle, D Peter McGlynn, D Tim Pontius, M Kennedy Chongo, M Jamiel Hardware, M Francisco Lopez, M Matthew Wiet, F Gyasi Zardes