The Orange County Blues played a much better game the second time around against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Friday, and a last-second penalty kick helped them take a point after a 1-1 draw on Friday night.
The Blues are the first team to take points off Colorado Springs at their home for the first time this year and also the first to score a goal at their park. Despite that, Colorado Springs have to feel rather hard done by the final moments of the game, where it appears the decisive handball was more a matter of ball-to-hand rather than an intentional handball.
The first chance of the game came in the 5th minute, as Blues defender Brenton Griffiths made a run into the box and tried to latch onto a pass over the defense, but while he got a boot on the ball, his stretch took the ball in the opposite direction and he couldn't convert.
The Switchbacks' first good chance of the game came in the 21st minute, as Josh Cohen made a save off Jordan Burt's close-range shot from a Josh Suggs free kick.
Suggs did get the better of his old side 11 minutes later, as a corner kick he took was headed in by Josh Phillips to give Colorado Springs the 1-0 lead.
After the break, Trevin Caesar took a sharp shot that forced a save from Colorado Springs GK Devala Gorrick to keep the Blues off the board. On the other end, Cohen then got another close-range save to prevent another goal, and then made a kick save to keep the Blues in the game.
But Ivan Mirkovic was shown a straight red card in the 73rd minute for a late tackle on Taeseong Kim in the midfield, leaving the Blues down to 10 men for the rest of the game, making the challenge that much more difficult.
Then the game devolved in the final minutes, as several contentious calls came and Switchbacks became increasingly agitated. The referee added to the five minutes of second-half stoppage time, and eventually called a penalty on Colorado Springs for a handball in the box on Christian Ibeagha. Roy Meeus stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty in the 98th minute on the game's final play, and OC escaped with an unlikely point.
All things considered, 10-man OC should have lost this game, even if it seemed they were quite unlucky in the game on some of their chances. But then a big giant dose of luck came through for them to nab a point at the death. No doubt, they'll take it.
Congrats to Cohen, making his league debut this season in the game, for keeping the Blues in the game long enough to get a result, and well done by Meeus for burying the penalty.
The Blues will return home for their next game, Saturday June 4 against Seattle Sounders 2 for the teams' first meeting of 2016.
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