Make that four in a row.
The Orange County Blues won their fourth consecutive game on Saturday, as they defeated Arizona United SC 2-0 in Scottsdale Stadium. Christopher Santana, Denzel Slager and Pavle Popara had the goals for the visitors, who moved back into the Western Conference playoff slots, ahead of defending USL champs Sacramento Republic FC. It also helped the Blues split the season series against Arizona United, with both teams grabbing a win against the other both at home and on the road this year.
Both teams had goals called back for offside offenses, beginning with Orange County about a quarter hour into the contest, followed by one in each half by United. Over the course of the first half, the Blues were the stronger team in possession and build-up play.
The Blues grabbed the lead in the 35th minute originated by a terrific bit of skill by left back Josh Suggs. He dribbled the ball just inside the final third through Arizona United defenders, played a quick one-two to break free, then with some space on the left side hit a nice low cross into the box that Santana finished, his second goal of the season. Though Santana was obviously key in turning that shot into the net, Suggs did a lot of good work to set it up for his teammate.
As has been the custom in recent weeks, after OC took the lead they immediately moved into a defensive posture in an effort to maintain the lead. As a result, Arizona completely dominated the ball after the restart, but were largely wasteful with their chances. Pepe Miranda, back in goal after a one-game suspension, had a massive save in the 78th minute off a corner kick, as he punched a shot that reached him through traffic back away from goal.
Slager came off the bench in the second half and put a mark in the game in the seconds after Miranda's clutch save, as he ran onto a ball from another sub, Tyler Feeley, and hit the one-timer past AZ United 'keeper Carl Woszczynski, who was well off his line and had no chance.
With the hosts thoroughly dispirited, Popara scored on the last kick of the game, as he dispossessed a United player at the top of Arizona's box and slammed a shot past Woszczynski.
The result not only bolsters OC's playoff hopes, it also puts some breathing room between them and the pack below Sac Republic, at least for the moment. Of course, the Blues will need to continue to get results down the stretch to ensure a berth in the postseason, with the next challenge coming next Saturday on the road once again, this time against the Austin Aztex, who they just beat in a nailbiter. Can Orange County go for la mano and extend their winning streak? Judging by the past month, they're doing all the right things at the moment.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!