Orange County SC knew they would have a target on their backs this season and so far that’s come to pass, as their start to the 2022 regular season for the defending USL Championship champs has been a bit rocky, and a mix of the good and the bad continued in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Sacramento Republic at Championship Soccer Stadium.
Stalwart OCSC captain Michael Orozco missed his first game in two seasons due to a reported rib injury, with Danish midfielder Daniel Pedersen getting the armband for the first time for the club.
The game started badly for the home side, as Damia Viader latched onto a long ball from the back by Dan Casey, and the Sac Republic newcomer beat all Orange County players, including goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky, as he easily opened the scoring in the second minute.
But all was not lost, as Orange County leveled the score midway through the 1st half, with Erick “Cubo” Torres notching his first goal for the club from the penalty spot in the 26th minute, after Milan Iloski drew the penalty.
Even with the penalty conversion, Orange County struggled in attack in the 1st half, posting no other shots in the first 45, as Sacramento tried to push for another go-ahead score on the road. OCSC held them off defensively, and then did better to get into the game in the 2nd half. Still, the winning goal wasn’t there on the night.
While the comeback to grab a point is a decent result against a good squad, Orange County SC aren’t off to a great start to the league campaign, it must be said. Through five games, they have five points, and are currently in 11th place in the 13-team Western Conference. For context, San Diego Loyal are atop the West standings on 16 points (although they’ve already played three more games than OCSC). As the defending champs, they had to know they would get their opponents’ best every time out, and that’s been happening so far. But while the slow start is a bit concerning, it’s still early in the season and hopefully the wins start coming before long.
Before the return to league play comes the big U.S. Open Cup showdown, Wednesday against LAFC at The Banc in Los Angeles. If OCSC can spring the upset, they’ll definitely get some attention paid their way, but it won’t be easy, with LAFC flying high atop the MLS standings at the moment. Still, we’ll see what happens for the lower division outfit midweek in their cup quest.
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