IRVINE, Calif. — It wasn’t pretty but it was the result that Orange County SC needed.
Thanks to two first-half goals by Sean “Ugo” Okoli, OCSC defeated Southern California rivals LA Galaxy II, 2-1, in the first of two matchups against Los Dos this week.
“Nobody was satisfied with that performance,” OCSC head coach Braeden Cloutier said after the game. “It seemed we were a bit frantic at times, disorganized at times. Tonight just felt like there was a little more anxiety.”
It was a less-than-ideal start for OCSC. After getting the first chance of the game that was punched away by LA goalkeeper Abraham Romero, Galaxy II got up the left side and a cross found an open Jonathan Perez for a header and the game’s opening goal, just two minutes in.
Orange County had a strong chance off of a designed free kick with Aodhan Quinn’s shot pushed out for a corner by Romero.
In the 24th minute, OC found its equalizer. Seth Casiple crossed the ball from the left byline and found Okoli, who turned, created space for a shot and lashed a low strike to the near post, beating Romero.
“I had a really good talk with him yesterday about his motivation, his drive, his goals, ambition,” Cloutier said of Okoli, who scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season to take the team lead in the category. “I said ‘I’m going to give you the love when it’s warranted…go out there and I trust you.’”
Orange County kept the pressure coming and it paid off before the half. In the 38th minute, from a Brian Iloski corner kick on the right, OC’s Michael Orozco, headed the ball back across the six-yard box where Okoli waited, rose and headed in his second of the match to put the home side in front.
“I was trying to go to goal, trying to change direction to it,” Orozco said. “Ugo was there. It doesn’t matter who puts it away — three points.”
Just before the half, OC goalkeeper Frederik Due was challenged from outside of the box by Adam Saldaña but the Galaxy II midfielder’s shot was calmly saved by the Danish keeper.
Early in the second half, Daniel Finlayson, the 19-year-old loanee from Scotland’s Rangers FC, headed a cross from a free kick but his attempt deflected off of a Galaxy II defender and went just wide of the post.
LA Galaxy II began to bring the pressure after that with Perez striking the post and Los Dos failing to capitalize from a free kick about 30 yards from goal.
Play began to get tense after play stopped for a downed Galaxy II player and OC felt hard done by, but tempers were soon settled.
OC saw off a Galaxy II shot off the post and a penalty shout as the game approached its final 20 minutes of action as Due wasn’t forced to make a save as OC hung on to claim all three points.
“We’re a team that’s going to protect 90 minutes,” Orozco said.
The two sides face off again on Saturday, same time, same place (7 p.m. in Irvine).
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