Orange County SC lost for just the third time this season and saw their nine-game unbeaten streak snapped as they lost 2-1 to San Diego Loyal at Torero Stadium.
In a battle between the two hottest teams in the league, Orange County took the lead after San Diego lost a man to a red card, but they couldn’t hold on for the victory and San Diego flipped the result in short order to get the result in the end.
Braeden Cloutier brought back Abraham Romero and Brent Richards to Orange County’s XI, but otherwise it was the same group that featured at the weekend against Sacramento Republic.
San Diego were on the front foot early, and if not for a blooper play, they would have scored in the 19th minute, but Miguel Ibarra’s angled finish bounced off his teammate Charlie Adams bounced away from goal and out of play.
But OCSC got back into the game from there and Mikko Kuningas nearly had a point-blank goal in the 28th minute off a Richards cross, but San Diego’s defense got enough of a touch to throw the Finnish midfielder off from his goalbound header.
And the teams went into the halftime break scoreless. San Diego had the edge in total shots, eight to four, but Orange County had the only shot on target through the first 45. All in all, a very Orange County-like opening half for the team.
The 2nd half started with San Diego again pushing for the night’s opener, but OCSC held firm to keep them off the board in the opening minutes. In the 51st minute, Adams had a direct free kick that dipped over the wall, but Romero made the block to keep San Diego out of the net.
Eero Markkanen nearly scored on a one-timer in the box shortly before the hour mark, but his effort forced a save from San Diego GK Trey Muse, so it remained a battle for both teams.
San Diego defender Grant Stoneman picked up his second yellow card of the night at the hour mark, and Orange County got a second straight game where they played up a man for a significant amount of time, as they looked to take advantage of the opportunity.
Markkanen took advantage in the 67th minute, as he received a slip pass from Kuningas after the midfielder’s long dribble upfield, and the towering forward made it look easy on the finish to give Orange County the 1-0 lead.
But Callum Montgomery scored an equalizer off a free kick in the 74th minute for San Diego, the defender diving for the header after beating his man to make it 1-1.
And just two minutes later, San Diego flipped the result and took the lead, with substitute Tumi Moshobane with a flick header in the box to beat Romero, an admittedly fantastic finish that would fool most ‘keepers.
From there, Orange County pushed to get an equalizer, but the tables were turned and San Diego held firm defensively, and they held on to win the match.
I think it’s a frustrating result for Orange County, especially considering they took the lead and were playing up a man, but I also think this was a really tough matchup. OCSC can feel a bit chastened by the loss, but if it’s a one-time thing, I don’t think they can be overly downcast, considering they played well aside from the two goals conceded.
Orange County will go outside their division for their next match, Saturday against Rio Grande Valley FC. Can they start a new unbeaten run with that game? We’ll see what happens.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.