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Fresno FC on 3-game losing streak as it nears USL playoffs

Tacoma Defiance fans from Merced showed up to cheer for their hometown hero, 17-year-old Alfonso Ocampo. He rewarded them with a second-half goal during a 4-1 win over Fresno FC.
Tacoma Defiance fans from Merced showed up to cheer for their hometown hero, 17-year-old Alfonso Ocampo. He rewarded them with a second-half goal during a 4-1 win over Fresno FC. jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Three matches after a season-defining, 2-1 victory that stopped a 20-game winning streak by Phoenix Rising and assured Fresno FC of a top-three finish in the USL Championship Western Conference standings, one thing is certain: The Foxes are headed to the playoffs.

What is uncertain is what direction will the second-year club be taking.

Since the Sept. 21 victory over Phoenix, Fresno FC has lost three consecutive matches, including an embarrassing 4-1 loss to last-place Seattle Sounders 2 on Oct. 5.

That came on heels of a Fresno Bee report that the club may leave Fresno after the season due to lack of nailing down a site for a soccer-only stadium as required by the league.

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Fresno FC fans send a message to the club about staying in Fresno during a 4-1 loss to Tacoma Defiance at Chukchansi Park on Oct. 5. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

To add further insult, the Fresno Fire Department banned the use of smoke bombs at Chukchansi Park. When the home team snuck in a late, second-half goal against the Sounders 2, confetti and tossed toilet paper rolls replaced the blue and yellow colors of the smoke bombs in the sections dominated by the Fire Squad.

Going into the team’s final home match on Oct. 12 against LA Galaxy II, the Foxes remained second in the USL Western Conference at 16-8-8 (56 points), just ahead of Reno 1868 (16-6-10, 54 points).

Fresno FC wraps up regular season play on Saturday (Oct. 19) at Orange County SC.

Twenty of the league’s 36 teams – 10 from each conference – will advance to the playoffs, with the lowest four seeds in each conference competing in a playoff round that is scheduled for Oct. 23.

The playoff winners will advance into a single-elimination bracket with the highest seed hosting each playoff match. Fresno FC will host at least one playoff game.

The conference finals will be played between Nov. 8-10, and the USL Cup will be scheduled between Nov. 14-18. The conference champion with the better regular season record will host the cup final.

Against the Sounders 2, the home team fell behind in the 31st minute when Justin Dhillon found the back of the net.

In the 65th minute, Dhillon scored again to push the visitors’ advantage to 2-0. Teammate Alfonso Ocampo, a 17-year-old forward from Merced, notched the team’s third goal a few minutes later.

Ocampo, who was the main attraction for a large gathering of Sounders 2 fans assembled near the first-base dugout, leaped over the barrier and into the crowd to celebrate his second goal with the club.

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Fresno FC fans pay homage to Foxes goalkeeper CJ Cochran before the Oct. 5 match against Tacoma Defiance. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Ocampo was 15 when he signed a professional contract with the Sounders, and has made three appearances this season with the MLS club.

Daniel Leyva scored the visitors’ final goal in the 75th minute to help the Sounders 2 earn its first road victory of the season. They improved to 6-6-19 (24 points), and ramained in last place.

Fresno forward Christian Chaney subbed in and scored in the 84th minute of play to help the Foxes avoid a shutout.

The Foxes outshot Tacoma 25-9, and held possession for 52 percent of the match.

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