Orange County SC remained alive in the Western Conference playoff chase, after beating Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 2-1 at the University of British Columbia on Sunday, with Jerry van Ewijk notching the vital winner.
Vancouver had a gilt-edged opportunity in the 36th minute, as Chris Serban’s shot in the box deflected off Oscar Sorto and clanged off the post, coming agonizingly close to trickling over the goal line, but OC were given a lifeline with the way the ball bounced.
OC then took the lead in the 40th minute, as Zach Kobayashi received the ball on the left on a counterattack from a falling Irvin Parra, and hit an angled shot to beat Spencer Richey in goal.
Marco Bustos tied up the game in the 55th minute, as Terran Campbell fed Bustos for a one-timer, beating Casey Beyers in goal, who was making his USL debut for Orange County. Moments before the goal, Joe Franco went down on a non-contact injury, but although the injury looked bad, he did return to action.
Van Ewijk then scored the go-ahead goal in the 83rd minute, as Orange County knocked at the door in the minutes leading up, with Gustavo Villalobos making a terrific run along the right flank, making a cutback pass to Irvin Parra in the box, who then laid it off for van Ewijk to smash it in.
So the result is extremely important for OC, as they move up one place in the Western Conference standings, to 9th, one spot out of the playoffs. With another one of their playoff competitors, OKC Energy FC, also winning on Sunday, Orange County are one point back of the final playoff spot, with five games left to play this season for both teams. That means Orange County need a bit of help, but they very much control their playoff destiny at this point, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Orange County’s next game will be a tough one, on the road against Real Monarchs on Friday. The upside, perhaps, is that the Utah side have dipped in form a bit since clinching their playoff spot a couple weeks back, so if they give OC an opportunity, hopefully the visitors can capitalize. Either way, it’s going to be a tough game, but Sunday’s win should give OCSC life to regroup and finish the regular season strong.
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