The Orange County Blues moved into first place in the USL Western Conference after beating the Colorado Springs Switchbacks 3-1 on Wednesday evening at Anteater Stadium. A pair of goals from Christofer Ramirez bookended the tallies for the hosts, while defender Brenton Griffiths became the unlikely hero as he scored the winner in the second half.
The game was largely controlled by the visitors, as they began the game pressing Orange County much more than any other team so far this season, and held more possession throughout the game. Despite that, the Blues were able to pick their moments and strike repeatedly against the run of play. The scoreline flatters the Blues a bit, although they were ruthless in punishing the Switchbacks for their defensive mistakes on the night.
Pepe Miranda and Griffiths combined on a rather fortunate play about 20 minutes in, as Saeed Robinson appeared to have an open net to score into off a chance, but the Blues duo rushed over to snuff out the chance and the ball somehow bounced off them and not into the goal, keeping the game scoreless at that point.
Ramirez notched his first goal of the night in the 38th minute as he stripped the ball from a Switchbacks defender near the edge of Colorado Springs' box, turned the corner, and buried it past goalkeeper Devala Gorrick. The goal came to some extent against the run of play, but the mistake was a costly one for the visitors.
Some possibly scary news, as Didier Crettenand exited the match with an apparent injury just before halftime. There were no initial indications of what the issue was, but if the team's captain has to miss extended time that could really deal a blow to the Blues.
Aaron King leveled the score in the 50th minute with a backheel touch on J.J. Greer's rocket, to put the Switchbacks back into the game.
Seven minutes later, Griffiths regained the lead for OC, as he angled Seung-ju Kim's corner kick perfectly with a header to beat Gorrick. It was the defender's first-ever goal in a Blues jersey and ultimately stood up as the winning goal.
Ramirez then padded the Blues' lead, as he scored his second of the night and fifth goal of the season in the 80th minute, taking the ball in the midfield, dribbling through two defenders, and catching Gorrick way off his line by slotting a low shot past the GK. It was certainly an impressive tally.
1. Christofer Ramirez: Did a terrific job carrying a sometimes-shaky Blues team on his back in scoring a brace with two impressive plays. The kind of forward who's great when he's on your team and a total pest when he's not, Ramirez seems to be settling nicely in USL.
2. Luke Vercollone: The Switchbacks' midfielder won the captain duel against Crettenand by TKO, with the Swiss player leaving the match early due to injury, but throughout the evening, he ran the game, only to be undone by mistakes from his teammates.
3. Brenton Griffiths: Helped hold the energetic Switchbacks to just one goal and stepped up in the right moment to score a well-taken game-winner for the Blues. The defender had a very good night overall.