Orange County SC closed the 2020 USL Championship season on a positive note, as a Chandler Hoffman hat trick powered them to a wild 4-2 win Saturday over Las Vegas Lights FC at Cashman Field.
The win comes as a consolation on what is ultimately a disappointing season, but this game showed some of what OCSC are capable of at their best.
Braeden Cloutier played a pretty strong group to end the season, but 15-year-old Francis Jacobs made his first career start, and fellow youngsters Kobi Henry and Aaron Cervantes both got the nod to start as well.
Hoffman scored his first goal for OCSC in the 17th minute, as the veteran forward pounced on a defensive mistake by Las Vegas, the defender attempting to head the ball back towards the goalkeeper but Hoffman pouncing on it in the middle and scoring a wily goal.
Hoffman scored again in the 21st minute, with Brian Iloski sending a great throughball to Darwin Jones on the flank, before he sent a low cross from the endline to Hoffman for the tap-in.
Then Raul Mendiola scored for Las Vegas in the 24th minute to make it 2-1, the playmaker pouncing on a mistake from an OCSC defender killing the ball in the box to smash it in.
But Hoffman had his hat trick in just 27 minutes, as he scored off Aodhan Quinn’s corner kick service to give OCSC a 3-1 lead.
The teams went into the halftime break with that scoreline, Orange County firmly in control but Las Vegas not laying down, Lights FC in fact holding a comfortable edge in shots and shots on target in the first half.
Cervantes was pressed into service early in the 2nd half, and Las Vegas nearly scored off a deflected shot in the opening minutes after the restart, but the ball clanged off the post to save Orange County’s blushes.
But Mendiola scored again in the 66th minute, as Jose Carrera fought off a tackle before feeding his teammate, with Mendiola hitting a wicked curler that was unstoppable, to make it 3-2.
Then it got tighter, as Seth Casiple came off the bench and picked up two yellow cards in seven minutes for Orange County, putting the visitors down a man for the final 14 minutes and stoppage time.
The game was wrapped up with a fascinating swing for penalty appeals on both ends. It looked like Orange County conceded a stone-cold penalty on one end to make it 3-3, but the referee did not award that one. Then a few minutes later, OCSC got a penalty themselves for a similar tackle, and Aodhan Quinn scored the penalty to give OCSC the 4-2 lead.
Las Vegas had a man sent off after the penalty, Jordan Murrell got his marching orders so the teams ended 10-v-10.
That was the final game of the season for OCSC, as they came just short of qualifying for the playoffs this year. On the bright side, they ended the campaign on a high note, but we’ll see how long the offseason is and how many changes come to the team before the next season gets underway. Thanks for following along this season.
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