For the third year in a row, the Orange County Blues were knocked out of their first, and only, U.S. Open Cup game of the year, as they were defeated 4-2 in a penalty shootout to local amateur side LA Wolves FC after the game finished 1-1 through added extra time.
The game, held at Banning High School in Wilmington, was scoreless through the first 70 minutes, before Miguel Sanchez put the Wolves ahead in the 72nd minute. But the Blues came back and tied it up in the 77th minute courtesy of midfielder Grady Howe, who scored his first professional goal in the process. In the end, the game was tied up 1-1 through regulation, so it went to extra time, where it remained tied 1-1.
In the penalty shootout, Orange County led 2-1 early, before failing to score again, with the Wolves coming back to win 4-2 and advance to the third round of the Open Cup.
The result means that the Blues now have a 3-6 record all-time in the USOC since first entering the tournament in 2011.
The Wolves, meanwhile, grab their first-ever win in the Open Cup proper (officially, they won last week against Ventura County Fusion due to forfeit for the Fusion playing an ineligible player), so it's obviously a landmark day for their team.
And for all the talk of "cupsets" that must include the OC Blues, who after all are a professional side, the quality of players, even at the amateur level, in Southern California, cannot be discounted. It's hard to say if the amateur players are "better" here than elsewhere, of course, but last year's open division winner of the cash prize, PSA Elite, came from Southern California, and LA Wolves have a shot of taking that prize this year.
But first, they have to play another amateur side, La Maquina, in the third round, to be held June 1. The winner of that game will play...
Easy-peasy, right? That game appears to be scheduled for June 15.
We'll have more coverage of the Open Cup in the weeks to come.
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