The Orange County Blues put a victory on the board, their first of the 2015 season, over the weekend, as they notched a 2-0 home win against USL debutants Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Second-half goals from Didier Crettenand and Amani Walker were the difference against Vancouver, who played two-thirds of the game down a man.
The Blues got the game off to a good start, as they continued the possession game they displayed in the first game of the season. The ultimate turning point in the game was in the 34th minute, when defender Ethen Sampson, on loan from the Whitecaps' first team, was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the game on what was a dangerous if unintentional stomp.
The game remained scoreless through the first half, and in the minutes leading up to the goal, the Thundercaps actually took control of the game and appeared to be getting closer to perhaps scoring a shorthanded goal. But the Blues got the opener in the 58th minute, as Blues winger Denzel Slager persisted in sending in a cross into the danger zone, at first partially blocked by Thundercaps defender Christian Dean, before getting off a clean centering pass that was finished by Crettanand, who was making a late run into the box.
After regaining control following the goal, the Blues did play a bit shakily in the final 15 minutes, as WFC2 took control of the ball back and pushed for a late equalizer. OC goalkeeper Pepe Miranda made a vital save in the 92nd minute to preserve the lead, and about 30 seconds later, the Blues broke on a counterattack as Chris Cortez dribbled upfield before sending a feed over to Walker, who finished in the upper part of the net to ice the game.
The Blues will be back in action next Saturday, as they host Arizona United SC once again in this young season. The game should be another good test, as AZ United has been flying so far this season, although the Blues played very well despite losing in the season opener.
1. Didier Crettenand: The midfielder put together another strong performance for his new club, and played a terrific two-way game capped off by the game-winning goal.
2. Denzel Slager: Had two separate moments where it looked like he might have gotten hurt, so there have to be some concerns about his durability, but Slager was outstanding again, zooming down the right flank and pushing Thundercaps' defenders all night.
3. Ben McKendry: The MLS Homegrown midfielder on loan to the Thundercaps looks very promising, and will certainly benefit from getting competitive minutes in his first professional season.
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