The Orange County Blues opened the 2016 USL regular season on Saturday at Anteater Stadium, as they lost 1-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Former OKC Energy FC midfielder Kyle Greig scored the winner off a set piece for the visitors.
The Thundercaps took the lead just after the hour mark, as Mitch Piraux's free kick near the sideline was headed in by Greig. Truthfully, it was a deserved lead as Vancouver were the better side throughout the game. Both sides had chances throughout the game, but the Thundercaps were the dominant side throughout the game, even on the road, and the Blues will have some work to do in getting on the same page as a group.
Didier Crettenand came closest to evening up the score in the final quarter-hour, as he slalomed through the box and forced a save from Vancouver goalkeeper Sean Melvin, which bounced off the post and eventually was cleared out of danger.
But it wasn't to be, and OC begin the season with a home loss for the second straight season.
Blues need time to build chemistry: Oliver Wyss had some curveballs in his lineup on Saturday, as eight of the starting XI were newcomers to the team. He even opted to leave stalwarts Brenton Griffiths and Didier Crettenand on the bench to start the game, although both players entered in the second half.
The result? The Blues misplayed a lot of passes, sat back and failed to really spring on the attack for most of the game. WFC2 took advantage of the sloppy start and conservatism of their opponents and both pushed the pace and counterattacked when they had the chance. The result was a tough game to watch from an OC perspective, although on the bright side they played their way into the game, and the substitutes made a positive impact on the night. It just wasn't enough for a result.
Miller shows his worth: A lot was made coming into the season about the Blues' acquisition of reigning USL Goalkeeper of the Year Brandon Miller. Turns out, that was for good reason, as Miller stood tall, especially in the first half, as the group in front of him kept getting crossed up and beat by the Thundercaps and Miller had to step up and make save after save. He did make a mistake near halftime in holding onto the ball just outside the box, but made amends for the error in saving the subsequent free kick. It was a good start for Miller and he was certainly Man of the Match for OC.
Ajeakwa the spark in attack for Blues: Akwafei Ajeakwa, a new unannounced signing, entered the game just past the half hour mark for Gevorg Karapetyan, another new unannounced signing, who suffered an injury. Ajeakwa played very well in his time on the field, giving the Blues dimension in the attack, and showing an ability to both run onto long passes and set up teammates. He had a couple close calls and really deserved an assist with a fantastic layoff in the box, but it didn't come off. Still, his debut for the club was a bright spot in attack.
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