The Orange County Blues had a costly three-minute lapse in their road match against the Portland Timbers 2 on Sunday, and as a result lost 2-1 at Merlo Field. Both Timbers 2 goals came in the aforementioned three-minute stretch in the first half, while the Blues scored lat on to make the game more interesting.
Playing their fifth game in two weeks, and second game on the road this week, the Blues hung tough for most of the game, but they struggled to notch top chances, hurting their chances of climbing back into the game, and momentary defensive lapses made the difference.
One of the elements of Orange County’s struggles over the course of this season has been on set piece defense. While they’ve played better lately, T2’s first goal came courtesy of a corner kick, as former Newcastle defender Steven Taylor headed the ball in for his first goal since joining Portland in the 28th minute.
That in itself wasn’t so bad, but the Blues then conceded once more in the 31st minute, as Victor Arboleda finished his chance past Jake Cohen on a textbook counterattack.
Aside from the goals, the Blues played fairly well on the day, but lacked that spark needed to really push for a comeback. The game was chippy at times, as is customary in USL, and the teams turned to handbags late on, but no player was sent off on either side.
The Blues did get a consolation goal in the 88th minute, as debutant Max Rauhofer scored a penalty drawn by Andrae Campbell to cut Timbers 2’s lead in half. The final minutes were a bit more harried after that goal for both teams, but Portland did enough to hold off Orange County’s attempts to complete the comeback.
It’s hard to know if the punishing schedule played a part in the effort on the day, but returning to a week’s rest before the next game should help OC bounce back the next time around.
On that front, the Blues’ next game is a biggie, as they host local rivals LA Galaxy II in the final meeting of the 2016 regular season next Saturday, and they’ll be looking to bank some more points with just six more regular season games left to go this year.
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