The Orange County Blues finished a tough road swing of two games in less than 48 hours by notching a comeback 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium in British Columbua. Goals by Tyler Rosenlund and Brenton Griffiths split the points on the day, leaving Orange County in second place in the Western Conference, unable to leapfrog conference leaders Colorado Springs Switchbacks for the top spot with one game left in the season.
OC had the first good chance of the game, as Christofer Ramirez was fed a ball over the top from the right flank and he successfully chipped ThunderCaps 'keeper Marco Carducci, but the shot ultimately sailed wide of the far post in the 14th minute.
The Blues had a few chances blocked or wide in the minutes that followed, but they had another huge opportunity to take the lead in the 25th minute, when Victor Blanco's unmarked header off a Didier Crettenand corner kick was off the mark.
Rosenlund found the breakthrough for Vancouver in the 33rd minute. After WFC2 took off on a counterattack, Blues midfielder Pavle Popara tried to stop the push forward by grabbing Sunil Sandhu on the right flank, but the referee played advantage. The ThunderCaps could not get an immediate chance, but the Blues failed to clear their lines and eventually Marco Bustos' shot was blocked by Blues goalkeeper Josh Cohen, only for the ball to fall to Rosenlund, who slammed it into the goal. Though the goal came against the run of play, they took advantage of their best sustained spell of possession in their final third.
The Blues looked to have gotten the tying goal in the 49th minute, as second-half sub Chris Cortez poked in Josh Suggs' centering pass, but the assistant referee raised the flag to negate the tally.
But less than a minute later, Griffiths grabbed his third game of the season as he allowed Popara's inswinging corner kick to bounce off his leg and into the net to tie up the game.
David Estrada had a chance to take the lead for Orange County just before the hour mark, but his shot was saved by Carducci. Cohen then had a key save of his own about five minutes later as he tapped a ball floating toward the goal back away and out of danger.
As the second half wore on, the Whitecaps had by far the better grasp of play and were thoroughly controlling the match, with the Blues looking unable to complete the crisp link-up play or weigh their passes properly to each other. Obviously tired legs appeared to be the culprit for OC as the minutes ticked by.
So with the Blues unable to take first place in this game, they've got one final opportunity to finish the campaign on top in the West, Wednesday against Sacramento Republic FC at home. It won't be an easy task, of course, and they'll need to both win and see Colorado Springs fail to win in the finale in order to finish in first. But it's another result on the road to complete a tough road trip, and all things considered, Orange County remain in good form with the playoffs looming.
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