For the second Saturday in a row, Redlands FC fans made their way to Dodge Stadium to root for their hometown club as they faced the defending USL2 national champions, the Ventura County Fusion.
Redlands came into the night unbeaten in their first two games via a 1-1 home draw vs FC Tucson and a 1-0 away win vs the Arizona Arsenal. As for the Fusion, the match was their first of the season, and they were looking to pick up where they left off last season.
The first 10 minutes of the match was a feeling out process for both teams, with neither getting any real scoring chances. Redlands FC’s defense ensured no balls entered dangerous areas and the Fusion seemed content with letting the home side run along the wings as long as nothing entered the box. That changed quickly, however, as in the 21st minute Omar Yehya came streaking down the right wing before delivering a beautiful through ball to Noah Lopez, who sent a rocket past the Fusion keeper for his first goal of the season. Yehya creating chances has become a theme for Redlands throughout the first three games of the season, and is a big reason why the offense has been so consistent. The last 25 minutes of the first half saw no opportunities of note, and both sides headed to the locker room with the score at 1-0.
The second half proved to be a much different tale than the first. Early on the Fusion began to create some prime scoring opportunities off of set pieces. The Fusion sent 2 shots on goal off of 2 corner kicks that forced incredible saves from Redlands keeper Sebastian Ascencio in which he in one save punched the ball over the bar and, in the other, swept it away as it was rolling towards the goal line. Redlands would get a chance to make it 2-0 shortly after as Omer Yehya once again found himself behind enemy lines, but sailed the shot over the bar. After a couple more Fusion shots and incredible Ascencio saves, Luis Mueller sent a shot in from about 30 yards out that wizzed past the keeper to put Redlands up 2-0 in the 79th minute. From there, it was all routine, and the final whistle marked a historic Redlands win in their inaugural season over the defending champions.
Sebastian Ascencio’s heroic effort in net earned him Man of The Match honors as Redlands improved to 2-1-0 on the season and sit first in the Southwest Division table with 7 points in 3 matches. Redlands will look to continue their winning ways May 27th as they head to San Juan Capistrano to face Capo FC.