IRVINE, Calif. — Orange County SC kicked off the 2020 USL Championship season on Friday with a match against El Paso Locomotive at Orange County Great Park, and the teams split the points in a 0-0 draw.
With both teams returning their coaches for 2020, Braeden Cloutier for OCSC, Mark Lowry for El Paso, there weren’t drastic changes from last season, but Cloutier seemed to use a diamond midfield, a new wrinkle for the home side.
El Paso put the ball in the back of the net in the 21st minute, but Nick Ross was offside in the buildup and the goal did not count. Two minutes later, OC goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes was tested and put in a good stretch to block a shot.
New Orange County forward Sean Okoli had a great chance at the back post off a cross in the 29th minute, but his floated effort went just over the goal. Kevin Alston had the shot on target that forced a save from El Paso goalkeeper Logan Ketterer, but Thomas Enevoldsen’s follow-up effort got a tip save from Ketterer and it went over the bar.
Enevoldsen had another great chance just before halftime, but his sliding volley on a ball over the top was blocked by Ketterer.
After the break, the game started to get feisty with hard contact, particularly on El Paso’s side, with a couple yellow cards coming as a result for the visitors.
Seth Casiple had a rip from distance in the 71st minute that nearly beat Ketterer, but the goalkeeper was up to the task and got low in time to block it.
Orange County had a few more chances, but Ketterer had a good night and held everyone at bay. At the same time, Cervantes was also up to the challenge at the other end, and incorporating some new faces like Rob Kiernan, Cammy Palmer, Okoli, Casiple and Enevoldsen means there’s something to build on. It was a night where the attack was stymied, but with a few more games under their belts the cohesion may be there.
OCSC’s next game is March 21 against San Diego Local at Championship Soccer Stadium. The bye week may or may not be a benefit for Orange County, but it’s happening and that will give Cloutier more time on the training field building cohesion before they host the newest team in California.
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