Orange County Soccer Club vs. Phoenix Rising FC
2017 USL Regular Season (Week Sixteen)
Orange County Great Park, Irvine, CA
Saturday, July 8 – 5pm PST
Irvine, Calif. (July 1, 2017) The OC Great Park has been home to some of the most exciting matches in the league. From the 4-0 victory in the home opener against crosstown rivals LA Galaxy 2 to the previous two weekends against Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Portland Timbers 2 which had a flurry of goals and late theatrics. Tonight’s game against Phoenix Rising FC was no exception.
Entering tonight’s match Orange County was missing some key figures due to suspension from the starting-line up. Midfielder Ami Pineda and forward Jerry Van Ewijk were on the side lines watching the game unfold. The rest of the OC team would step up to fill the void left behind. Matching up alongside a high-octane Phoenix side poised to play spoiler at the OC home field.
The game started out tame in comparison to weeks prior with both teams feeling each out in the early stages. Phoenix was able to mount the initial offensive pressure through Victor Vasquez and Omar Bravo. Both were creating half chances and aggressively taking on the OC defenders in 1v1 duels. In the 23rd minute Bravo was able to get on the end of a Vasquez cross, but goalkeeper Charlie Lyon nervously watched the header skim out of bounds off the top of the crossbar. Anytime Phoenix had a free kick within 40 yards Didier Drogba saw it as an opportunity for an attempt on goal. In the 40th minute with a free kick right on the fringes of his range, Drogba fired an audacious shot towards the net. Lyon scrambled backwards just in time to tip the ball over his goal. Just before halftime, off of another Vasquez cross, Bravo flashed a header under Lyon’s out-stretched left hand, but Oscar Sorto was alert and cleared the chance right off the goal line.
OC found it difficult to break down the Phoenix backline in large part to the physicality of Phoenix’s play. OC involuntarily made two first half substitutions, Carlos Alvarez departed for Monday Etim in the 27th minute. On the stroke of halftime Oscar Sorto made way for Solomon Wbias. Coach Logan Pause was forced to make both changes because of injuries. Although OC continued to dominate possession Josh Cohen was largely untested in the first half. The teams entered the locker rooms at halftime goalless.
The second half saw OC ramp up the pressure on the opposition. Limiting the amount opportunities Phoenix had on their net, while creating a few opportunities of their own. Cohen saw multiple shots from the OC midfield and forwards, but most came from outside the 18 yard box and Cohen was able to handle them comfortably. The first goal came in the 84th minute off a free kick. Wbias played a long direct ball forward to Etim who was streaking down the middle of the field. Cohen rushed out to claim the ball but his momentum carried him outside of the 18 yard box and thus was illegally handling the ball. Roy Meeus scored a left footer belter to the goalie’s side on the subsequent free kick. Directly following the goal Phoenix made two offensive-minded substitutions in the 85th minute to apply more pressure to the OC backline. AJ Gray in for Blair Gavin and Eder Arreola in for Matt Watson. The pressure and changes would eventually pay off. The ref awarded Phoenix a late questionable free kick right on the edge of the 18 yard box. After having ample occasions all game, Drogba found his range on the dead ball and emphatically finished his free kick in extra-time giving Phoenix a share of the points.
This time Orange County was on the receiving end of a late goal. Both teams were able to capitalize on set-piece chances. Phoenix escapes with a draw on the road in stunning fashion. OC travels up to Seattle for their next match Sunday, July 16 against Seattle Sounders FC 2. The teams should have a good familiarity with one another as they met at the Great Park only two weeks ago. Orange County won the affair in pulse-pounding 4-3 goalfest.
ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY SOCCER CLUB:
The Orange County Soccer Club is Orange County’s Professional Soccer Team. The club was one of 12 founding members of the new United Soccer League (USL) in its inaugural 2011 season. The predecessor club Orange County Blues were the 2015 Western Conference Regular Season Champions and have reached the Western Conference semifinals of the USL Playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The club’s brand-new owner, James Keston, is the Chief Investment Officer of LARO Properties, and will actively oversee all operations of the USL club in Orange County. Keston is dedicated to transforming the club into a world-class professional soccer organization that focuses on the fans, players, and youth clubs of Orange County.
For more information about Orange County Soccer Club or to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.orangecountysoccer.com.
Kelly Salmieri: VP, Marketing & Community Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 805.844.0856