Sergio Villalpando grew up playing soccer in Oxnard and by the age of 16 had already achieved what would be a wild dream for most players: He signed a professional contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, one of the most successful and storied teams in the three-decade history of Major League Soccer.

Even that accomplishment may not be as significant as the venture Villalpando, 18, is taking part in right now. He’s helping kick off the first professional soccer team to call his native county home, the newly renamed Ventura County FC. Since 2014 the team has been known as Galaxy II, playing at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, about 12 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Ventura County FC (VCFC) will compete at their new home stadium at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks for the first time on May 19 at 7 p.m.


Cobi Jones is a National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, former LA Galaxy player, Olympian and Westlake High School alum now helping launch Ventura County FC. (LA Galaxy) 

“For me personally it’s very important. It means a lot to me just playing for my professional hometown team,” Villalpando told the Ventura County Reporter. “It’s always been a dream to represent my hometown, my community in some sort of way. And I feel like through Ventura County FC, I can express that and just achieve that.”

Pro soccer journey leads back home

Villalpando had an older brother who played soccer and practiced at a park near their Oxnard home. The younger brother’s natural soccer skills apparently shone through early on, because a team made up of people four years older than Villalpando asked if he wanted to train with them and made him their goalkeeper.

Villalpando started playing for soccer clubs including the Oxnard Wave and Ventura County Fusion Club, an amateur soccer organization for all ages that includes a top-ranked team in the United Soccer League (USL) League Two. Ventura Fusion’s League Two team plays at Ventura College and is primarily made up of former pros along with top collegiate players who need to maintain their amateur status.

Ventura Fusion won the USL Championship Game in August 2022 thanks in part to two critical assists from Villalpando. Following that victory, he spoke with the VCReporter about his dedication to the sport. (“Ventura County Fusion brings soccer excitement to fans, professional development to players,” Alex Wilson, VCReporter, Nov. 23, 2022.)

“I think this isn’t luck. I think this was just pure hard work,” Villalpando said in 2022. “And I think since I was a little kid, I always had a goal in mind, and that was to become a professional soccer player. I had nothing else in mind. I think ever since I was young, I never let anything distract me. I was focused.”

Now Villalpando is entering his third season under contract with the Galaxy organization where he started off playing on the LA Galaxy II team which competes in the MLS NEXT Pro league. The team was rebranded Ventura County FC as part of the move to CLU. Even as he’s already on the way to becoming a seasoned pro soccer player, Villalpando said he will always look back on his development with Ventura County teams as providing a foundation.


Mark Noorzai, co-president and co-general manager of Oaks Sports Holdings, the organization formed to bring MLS soccer to Ventura County. (VCFC)

“The Fusion was really where I matured and grew as a player. They helped me out a lot. I got all the exposure that I needed,” he said.

Villalpando hopes to inspire other young players who see him play in Ventura County. “Just to let them know that even though you’re from a small city, small community, anything is possible. You just got to keep working and just keep achieving your goals.”

Looking forward to pro debut in Ventura County

Villalpando is eagerly anticipating his first professional game in Ventura County. He’s hoping to see more familiar faces in the stands than when he played in Carson, a much longer drive from Oxnard. He described it as “a dream come true.”

“I’m just truly excited to see the fans in the stands supporting us and just cheering us on. Just can’t wait to see family and friends and, you know, all the people that have waited for a professional soccer team to come down to the area,” he said. “We’ll do our best. We’ll give our all and, yeah, just truly excited to play our first game at home.”

Ventura County Futbol Club Media Day

Sergio Villalpando grew up in Oxnard and is now a professional soccer player with Ventura County FC. (LA Galaxy)

Asked what he likes most about the sport, Villalpando said there are a lot of things.

“It’s full of passion, full of just love,” he said. “Just kicking a ball brings so much joy to me. Bonding with your teammates and then the staff there. I think it’s something that a lot of players are truly grateful for, just being able to play soccer every day and just have that as your career. It means a lot to us.”

Bringing pro soccer to VC

Mark Noorzai is co-president and co-general manager of Oaks Sports Holdings, an initiative started about two years ago to bring MLS soccer to Ventura County. The businessman shares those titles with Cobi Jones, a 2011 inductee to the National Soccer Hall of Fame who holds the record for the most goals with the LA Galaxy and started his soccer journey in Ventura County.

Originally from Denver, Noorzai played soccer at the University of Denver where he was named All- American, and also went on to coach soccer for Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley. Noorzai has lived in Ventura County for 28 years, and currently resides in the Santa Rosa Valley, not far from CLU. He told the VCReporter he also found success in the business world.

“I moved to California 30 years ago to run an artificial intelligence company in Santa Monica. I ran a semiconductor company out of MIT,” he said. “I’ve made my life in the high-tech world but my heart and my passion are in soccer and I always come back to, you know, giving back to the soccer community, no matter whether it’s AYSO [American Youth Soccer Organization] or competitive soccer or collegiate.”

Noorzai said they decided to play at CLU’s William Rolland Stadium because there was already a great soccer facility there, home to the current national champion women’s team. (“Improbable Champions: CLU Regals take NCAA Div. III championship,” Alex Wilson, VCReporter, Dec. 21, 2023.)

“I think people are going to be blown away [by] the acoustics of that stadium, the soccer-specific field — there’s no track in there — the closeness of the fans to the field,” Noorzai said. “Once people realize that it’s a full-blown professional league and professional teams, and the environment, and it becomes Ventura’s team — this is for Ventura County, and it’s made by people from Ventura County and it’s run by people from Ventura County — once that resonates over the next few three or four games, I think the stadium will be sold out. And I think it’ll be beautiful.”


Sergio Villalpando showing off the new uniform for Ventura County FC in a promotional shot. (LA Galaxy)

Noorzai explained that all Major League Soccer teams have what’s known as “reserve teams” which play in the MLS NEXT Pro league, which now includes Ventura County FC, formerly known as Galaxy II. “The players are all professional players that are owned by the Galaxy. And first team players and second team players play on the second team to get more playing time, coming back from injuries, developing professional players, and they get professional salaries and benefits and so forth. So, it’s the real deal.”

Tickets to the games will cost $15 for general admission and $20 with access to a VIP area, Noorzai said. They also plan on working to get as many young soccer fans at home games as possible. Ventura County FC expects to play about 20 games per season at CLU.

“We would like the youth clubs, the high schools, the elementary schools, the middle schools, the boys’ and girls’ clubs to use our games as a fundraising event…If a club sells, you know, 50 tickets and they get, you know, $15 a ticket, $5 of each one of those tickets will go back to that club for fundraising,” he said. “The idea is to give back to Ventura County. The whole idea here is, you know, we hire internally, we give back to the community, we use the community businesses we work with, you know, with everybody that’s local.”

Matches will have a festive atmosphere with lots of music and supporter groups that are getting organized right now. Noorzai said it’s about time professional soccer had its debut in Ventura County.

“We all finally get a pro team,” he said. “You know, we have a lot of good amateur teams. We have a lot of great youth teams. We have the best talent in the country, out of Oxnard, Camarillo, Fillmore, Westlake. You know, Cobi Jones came from this environment; that’s why he’s coming back to this whole environment — to give back. So, I think you’re going to get that youth energy with the professional environment and the music and the drums. And I think it’s going to be, you know, wonderful for everybody.”

Jones, who played for Westlake High School prior to competing on the world stage (including with the U.S. men’s national team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics), said he’s happy to help bring pro soccer to Ventura County.

“Growing up in this community, I was captivated at the sheer number of soccer enthusiasts and talented players. Despite the abundance of local skill, only a few ventured into professional soccer,” Jones said. “Joining Ventura County FC, I’m thrilled to play a key role in bringing top-tier soccer and entertainment to my hometown. We’re very excited for this VCFC, MLS NEXT Pro and LA Galaxy collaboration.”

LA Galaxy General Manager Will Kuntz said he was excited about the partnership with Oaks Sports Holding and entering the Ventura County market.

“VCFC will play an important role in furthering the Galaxy’s sporting vision and soccer operations goals, which will remain under our control. We look forward to this new partnership with Oaks Sports Holding as we continue developing top-tier talent in their progression to our first team,” Kuntz said. “We are thrilled that players in the Galaxy’s professional development pathway will be performing in an exciting new environment.

Ventura County FC plays the Real Monarchs of Utah on Sunday, May 19, at 5 p.m. at William Rolland Stadium, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. For tickets and more information, visit


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