Orange County SC restarted the 2020 USL Championship season with a tough match right out fo the docket, but as they’ve shown repeatedly over the years, they could go toe-to-toe with Phoenix Rising FC, as the teams played to a 1-1 draw behind closed doors at Championship Soccer Stadium Thursday.
OCSC head coach Braeden Cloutier opted for a lineup considerably different from the one that opened the season way back in March. Among the newcomers in the XI were Brian Iloski and Danny Finlayson making their debuts for the club, while Harry Forrester made his season debut after serving a suspension in the first game. Thomas Enevoldsen was not available as he’s in Denmark right now awaiting the arrival of his child.
OCSC controlled the run of play in the first half, but Phoenix perhaps had the best chance of the opening frame, with AJ Cochran’s header off a corner kick clanging off the crossbar just before halftime. But the teams entered the break scoreless.
In the second half, Phoenix appeared to have more control of the game out of the restart, and they pushed for the first goal, while Orange County became increasingly pinned back.
Phoenix found the breakthrough in the 64th minute, with Junior Flemmings heading in the flick-on from Rufat Dadashov off a Solomon Asante corner kick to make it 1-0 for the visitors.
Asante nearly hit an insurance tally in the 71st minute off a Michael Orozco miscue, but the ball trickled just past the far post.
But right after that, Orange County found the equalizer, as substitute Kevin Coleman took down a terrific ball over the top by defender Robbie Kiernan and blasted it past Phoenix goalkeeper Zac Lubin in the 74th minute. It was a fantastic play and yet another goal involvement off the bench for Coleman, who made a specialty of that last season.
It's a literal netbreaker that had @MikeWattsOnAir fooled.— Nicholas Murray (@NJEMurray) July 17, 2020
Kevin Coleman has leveled for @orangecountysc with 15 minutes to go, come over to ESPN2 for a big finish in this one.#USLonESPN #OCvPHX pic.twitter.com/XIutBZeHN6
In second-half stoppage time, another sub, Darwin Jones, got another ball on a breakthrough, and former OCSC defender, Kontor Owusu-Ansah, brought down Jones on the counterattack and was sent off as the last man. Ugo Okoli hit the subsequent free kick, but it was fielded by Lubin with no issue.
OCSC certainly had opportunities to get a win, but I think this was a pretty even game and a draw was a fair result for both sides. Kontor’s red card was actually a decent gamble in the end, as Jones didn’t get a shot off on what could have won the game for Orange County. No guarantee, of course, but I think Orange County SC should feel like they started the restart of the season on the right foot.
Orange County will get more than a week to prepare for their next match, which comes against...what do you know, Phoenix Rising, on Saturday, July 25. For it being the first game back, and for it coming against arguably the West’s strongest team, Orange County played extremely well, especially considering they were playing the first game of the restart and Phoenix their second. It should be another fascinating game.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.