The Orange County Blues finished what was a brutal month in upbeat fashion, snapping their winless streak to take a 3-2 victory over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps 2 on Saturday. A brace from midfielder Didier Crettenand and a tally from Christofer Ramirez edged goals from Caleb Clarke and Brett Levis for the ThunderCaps on the night.
It initially looked like it would be a pretty easy win for the Blues, as they raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. The Blues pushed the tempo from the opening kick off, and it paid off, as Crettenand sent a cross into the box from the left flank, and Vancouver could not fully clear their lines. A few moments later, Ramirez sent a cross into the box from the other side, and it squirted through the goal mouth before Crettenand hit a shot into the roof of the net from beyond the far post. It was an impressive tally, and represented a return to form for the Swiss midfielder.
Three minutes later, Ramirez returned to scoring ways, as he took an early ball from Christopher Santana and hit a deflected shot that beat WFC2 goalkeeper Spencer Richey. Game, set, match, right?
Not so fast. Though Ramirez nearly put the Blues ahead even more on the counter in the 27th minute, his shot trickled just wide of the far post. Then in the 32nd minute, the ThunderCaps got on the board, as Clarke received a terrific pass through the defense on a diagonal run and slotted it past Orange County goalkeeper Pepe Miranda with ease. Then it was Vancouver's turn to grab a second goal in three minutes, as following a save on the other end by Richey on Crettenand's one-timer, Levis got ahold of the ball on the left flank, dribbled inside to try to beat Jefrey Payeras, and hit a shot from the top of the box that was deflected past Miranda to tie up the game.
The Blues then took the lead in the 42nd minute, as off a corner kick a foul was called in the box, presumably committed on Blues midfielder Ryan Felix, a rookie newcomer to the club last week, and Crettenand grabbed his sixth goal of the season and his second of the game on the resulting penalty.
From there, the Blues would sit on the lead for the remainder of the match. While the ThunderCaps started the second half well, they couldn't find the equalizer, and Crettenand nearly extended the lead in the 58th minute as his free kick bounced off the post. Some of the shaky elements of the Blues' game reemerged in the second half, as the Whitecaps 2 controlled the run of play, but the home side was able to hold steady on the defensive end and grab all three points.
The win vaults the Blues back into playoff position at 6th in the Western Conference, though they could drop back down if the Portland Timbers 2 win in their league match tomorrow. It also snaps their six-game winless streak across all competitions that stretched back to May 16. And with OC in the midst of a glut of games, including a stretch of five games coming up in 16 days, returning to winning ways could help them get back on track and possibly solidify their postseason bonafides. But we'll have to see how they perform in the upcoming games, starting with another home game, against OKC Energy on Wednesday night.
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