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Saved by the whistle? Orange County SC 0, San Antonio FC 0

A wild finish ends up helping the home side, paradoxically.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas
Leonardo’s red card ended up saving OCSC a point.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Update: It turns out the call that the referee made to completely change the game was that Frank Lopez was offside, and that’s why his goal was called back. The broadcast didn’t pick this up at all (why would they, they’re calling from a janitor’s closet in Florida?) and the initial stills I saw from the broadcast were not convincing to my eye that he necessarily was. But San Antonio’s communications director, who was on site at Orange County Great Park, confirmed the call.

We apologize for the confusion, but when we’re relying on the broadcast, which is not fully informed themselves, mistakes happen.

Orange County SC once again played a difficult match with a wild ending, but this time the ending may have paid off in their favor to an extent, as they played San Antonio FC to a 0-0 draw at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine.

Frank Lopez, who had already scored three goals and two games against OCSC this season and joined San Antonio this week, looked to have scored the winning goal in the 92nd minute off a breakaway, but referee Lorant Varga called the goal back, instead calling a free kick and giving Orange County defender Leonardo a straight red card for denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity on Billy Forbes in the immediate run-up to the goal.

San Antonio understandably wanted the advantage played and for Lopez’s goal to count, while Leonardo protested his ejection but Orange County ultimately came out the better for it on what looked like the wrong call.

Orange County had the best chance of the first half on the final kick, as a long throw-in lead to a flick-on in the box and a shot in the box that forced a point-blank save from San Antonio FC goalkeeper Matt Cardone, who tipped it over the bar.

At the hour mark, midfielder Christian Duke made his season debut for Orange County, replacing Harry Forrester and making an eagerly anticipated return to the field following a long injury layoff.

But San Antonio pushed for a winner, despite not testing goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes all night with a shot on target. OCSC grew increasingly desperate as their chances went begging and San Antonio pushed deeper in attack. When Lopez’s stoppage time goal went in, it felt like deja vu for Orange County, but the referee’s whistle ended up bailing them out this time.

So Leonardo will be out the next game, but Orange County will be on short rest as they will host Reno 1868 FC on Wednesday in the annual “summer camp” game, and let’s see if the daytime atmosphere will help fire them to a result.

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