The Orange County Blues called time on the 2015 USL season on Saturday, as they fell 2-0 to LA Galaxy II at the StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium in the Western Conference semifinals. A brace from Ariel Lassiter made the difference for LA, who have now advanced to the final four of the USL playoffs.
Lassiter put the Galaxy II on the board in the 14th minute, as he received a pass between OC's center backs and slotted it past Pepe Miranda pretty easily. It was a trademark LA goal, and they executed their plan to perfection to open the scoring.
Less than three minutes later the Galaxy appealed for a penalty as a Blues player and LA player tangled up in the box on a loose ball, but the referee waived off PK requests. Truthfully, it probably should have been a penalty, but Orange County were handed a lifeline.
The Blues looked very much like the second-best team through the first 25 minutes, struggling to get any possession and looking rattled. But they started to play their way into the game in the final 20 minutes or so of the half, and while they didn't manage any great chances on goal, they were getting closer to it, giving them a lift for the second half.
Miranda came up big five minutes after the break, as he blocked Lassiter's point-blank shot, and a second effort bounced over the top of the crossbar to keep it a one goal game.
But Lassiter doubled the lead and his haul, in the 54th minute, as he took yet another throughball and shot it by Miranda once more. One thing that is going to disappoint OC is how they failed to deal with the Galaxy's break and butter on the attack, sending pass after pass through to Lassiter, who has a good chance of moving up to MLS in the next couple of seasons.
The Blues had a chance to get in the game when Christopher Santana was brought down in the box from behind by Joe Franco in the 72nd minute. Didier Crettenand stepped up to take the PK, and Galaxy II goalkeeper Clement Diop read it the whole way, blocking the shot. The Blues could not capitalize on the rebound, and were left emptyhanded.
Both teams exchanged chances in the final minutes, but after the saved penalty the game was effectively over. It was a disappointing performance from Orange County, to be sure, as they could not take advantage of their best-ever season to win their first-ever playoff game. That said, assuming the Blues come through the offseason with key personnel intact, they should be able to push on and find the motivation to climb to greater heights next season. It's a tough way to finish the season, but that's how it turns out for all but the team hoisting the trophy come the end of the postseason.
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