For the first time ever, Orange County SC are winners of the USL Championship. For the first time in the postseason, Orange County hit the road, for what was the biggest match in their 11 year history. Tampa Bay Rowdies came into the match having scored 10 goals in the playoffs, fresh off 3-2 upset over Louisville City in the Conference Finals. However, it was OCSC who came out flying and secured their first ever USL Championship title, with a 3-1 victory on the road.
Two things stood out tonight. One, converting chances is so very important. While it may seem obvious, it was all too clear this evening. Despite being dominated in possession, and chances on goal, OCSC were able to take advantage of the Rowdies mistakes, and capitalized on their three shots in the first half, scoring all three goals. The second thing, Ronaldo Damus is damn good.
It only took 24 minutes before Ronaldo Damus did what he's done all postseason, score. Damus took advantage of some sloppy passing by the Rowdies. Intercepting a poor touch from the defense, and slotting it in from inside the box for the early lead.
Goal number 17 for Ronaldo on the biggest stage pic.twitter.com/Ohon1kGfWv— Orange County SC (@orangecountysc) November 29, 2021
If its one thing Orange County are good at, it’s playing up a goal and defending the lead. Which made the opening goal all the more important, but it wouldn't be the last. In the 38th minute, on a more traditional build-up in attack, Damus doubled the lead. Giving the visitors a surprising two goal lead.
The perfect half didn't stop there, as Mikko Kuningas got the third goal via a stunning free-kick, as the first half was coming to an end.
With a three goal lead, and not ones to concede multiple goals in a match, it was the perfect scenario of Orange County on the road. While they would've wanted the clean sheet, we all knew Tampa Bay wasn't going to go down without a fight. In the 57th minute, Leo Fernandes got one back for the Rowdies. However, that was all they were going to get tonight.
Pure jubilation erupted at the sound of the final whistle. The team that is one of the original members of the USL Championship, for the first time, was able to hoist the trophy as their own. The result was a pleasant surprise, being the first time this team has scored three goals since early September. Especially as of late, they had become content with grinding out low scoring wins, relying on their ability to defend. To go on the road, in the biggest game of the club’s history, against a team that was in incredible form, and to score three in the first half, is a huge achievement in itself. The fact that it results in the first ever USL Championship Title, makes the moment that much sweeter, and that much bigger.