The Orange County Blues will have to bide their time to seek top spot in the Western Conference.
The Blues dropped their second home game of the season on Saturday, as they lost 1-0 to the Tulsa Roughnecks at Anteater Stadium. A goal by former Blues attacker Gibson Bardsley was the difference on the night, and while the Blues thought they had grabbed a dramatic equalizer very late in the match by Brenton Griffiths, the goal was waived off on an apparent offside call.
Chances went back and forth for the teams on the night, as Denzel Slager had a decent chance saved by Tulsa goalkeeper Zac Lubin in the 19th minute, followed by a goal by Bardsley three minutes later called back on an offside call.
The breakthrough came just before the hour mark, when Chad Bond's corner kick was headed in by Bardsley. Though Orange County continued to push for a tally of their own, they simply could not get a shot both in the goal and ruled legal.
It seemed like a few factors were at play on the night for the Blues in the result. First, they clearly missed captain Didier Crettenand, and frankly my call for him to be a USL MVP candidate was bolstered by Orange County's struggles in his absence. Missing his skill and leadership on the field, Orange County did not have that extra edge to grab the goal they needed.
Furthermore, the game was ultimately very close, and in soccer, a team is simply not going to be on the right side of tight encounters each time out. Full credit to Tulsa, who did exactly what they needed to in order to get their first road win in franchise history, but Orange County was so close to finding the back of the net several times. They just couldn't manage to convert.
And like their first game of the season, it's possible that Orange County may have been unfortunate on that offside call on Griffiths' equalizer. Based on the camera angle available, it's not conclusive. He may have indeed been offside, or not. But regardless of what camera angle we have, the decision stands anyway, and that's that.
The Blues' next competitive game is Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup against PSA Elite at Weingart Stadium. Can they make a run in this year's tournament?
1. Gibson Bardsley: It's got to feel good to score against one's old team, and he got to help make history to boot in bringing the Roughnecks their first-ever road win. In a game decided by a single moment, he made the difference.
2. Ben Brewster: All of Tulsa's defense kept the Blues off balance on the night, but Brewster helped lock down the Roughnecks box to preserve the clean sheet.
3. Denzel Slager: Credit to the Dutch winger for getting the looks he did on the night, as he had most of the Blues' best chances on the night. But he was largely handcuffed by a double team and lack of other options to take attention off him on the night.
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