Orange County SC had a double-game week wrapped up on Saturday, but it did not go according to plan, as they lost 2-0 to Rio Grande Valley FC at Championship Soccer Stadium.
Orange County lost consecutive games for the first time in 2021 and finished a week in which they could have taken the lead in the Pacific Division blanked and now in danger of dropping down the standings for the time being.
Continuing the recent pattern by Braeden Cloutier, Orange County rotated his goalkeepers and started Patrick Rakovsky in this one, as well as giving youngster Raymond Drai his first professional start for the evening clash. Cloutier made some other rotations as well to keep his team fresh after Wednesday’s game at San Diego Loyal.
RGVFC got off to a hot start, with Juan Carlos Azocar tapping in Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal’s cutback pass inside two minutes, the Venezuelan beating Rakovsky practically on the doorstep.
From there, the game was a grind, with RGVFC doing a good job of playing OCSC’s style, locking down the defense and looking to pick their spots on the counterattack otherwise. Orange County had plenty of the ball in the 1st half but they couldn’t do much to get it in the final third, and struggled to find a good scoring chance.
The teams went into halftime with the visitors leading 1-9, Orange County with work to do to get back into the game.
Chris Wehan, who entered the game at halftime in place of Drai for OCSC, had a decent opportunity a few minutes before the hour mark, as his free kick from the left-hand corner of the 18-yard box was saved by RGVFC goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
Orange County seemed to be on the verge of scoring in the 74th minute, with a ball dribbling through the box and nearly beating Deric, but bouncing just off the mark. They couldn’t convert the subsequent corner kick.
But Orange County conceded a penalty in the 79th minute, as Kobi Henry didn’t really get his tackle attempt on former teammate Alexis Cerritos right, and Rodrigo Lopez easily converted the penalty to ice the win for RGVFC.
Orange County got a ball into the back of the net just before the end of regulation, but the goal was chalked off for a foul in the buildup, with Brent Richards appearing to push a little hard on his man to get leverage on his header.
So it was a tough night and I’m not sure if it was the opponent, the short rest or the rotated lineup that particularly hurt Orange County’s prospects on the night, but they just never really had the mojo in this one. It happens, and I don’t think it’s reason to panic just yet, but given how tight of a battle the Pacific Division will be this year, they can’t afford to let this skid really run on.
Orange County’s next game will be next Saturday, when they’ll host Sacramento Republic for the teams’ final meeting of the regular season. OCSC are 3-0-0 against Sac Republic this season, so they’ll be looking for the regular season sweep in that one.
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