The Orange County Soccer Club (OCSC) came up just short in a game with LA Galaxy II at the Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine on Saturday, May 29, losing by a score of 4-3.
OCSC started out the game with a sloppy defensive play that led to a quick goal in the fourth minute by LA Galaxy II forward Preston Judd, assisted by MLS SuperDraft pick Josh Drack. Drack then scored a goal of his own in the 13th minute. To add to OCSC’s misfortunes, forward Thomas Enevoldsen went down with an injury off of a sliding tackle in the 22nd minute that kept him out for the remainder of the game.
LA Galaxy II’s attack looked too fast for OCSC to keep up with early in the game. However, in the 33rd minute, OCSC caught a lucky break. Midfielder Christopher Wehan scored off a steal following a poor goal kick by LA Galaxy goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg, making the score 2-1 in favor of LA Galaxy II.
In the 39th minute, LA Galaxy II was awarded a penalty kick after a sliding tackle in the box by defender Michael Orozco. Much to the dismay of OCSC players and coaches, who felt the tackle was a clean play, the referee ruled it as dangerous and extra aggressive, granting Orozco a yellow card.
The penalty kick taken by LA Galaxy II midfielder Jorge Hernandez was converted on the left side of the net, just out of reach of OCSC goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky. This put LA Galaxy ahead by a score of 3-1 just before halftime.
The second half started out with a much more aggressive effort by the OCSC team. Head coach Braeden Cloutier opened with a change, bringing on defender Avionne Flanagan for defender Nathan Smith, and it proved to make an impact. OCSC blocked shots and pushed forward with counterattacks on offense.
In the 58th minute, Wehan led a counterattack deep into the LA Galaxy II penalty box before passing the ball to the wide open forward Ronaldo Damus in the box. However, Damus’ shot was saved by Steeg, and the shot deflected right back to Wehan.
Wehan then passed the ball to forward Eero Markkanen. Markkanen fired a shot with his right foot straight into the back of the net from close range for his first goal of the season. Championship Soccer Stadium erupted into cheers as OCSC tried to claw their way back into the game, now trailing 3-2.
OCSC capitalized off another scoring chance in the 67th minute as defender Brent Richards threw the ball into midfielder Mikko Kuningas’ path. Kuningas struck a beautiful curving ball with his left foot into the box, catching LA Galaxy goalkeeper Steeg off guard as the ball sailed past him into the back of the net, tying the game at 3-3.
However, LA Galaxy II responded with force. In the 88th minute, LA Galaxy II forward Sebastian Nava scored the go-ahead goal. Nava played a brilliant give-and-go inside the right side of the penalty box with Hernandez, and struck a shot with his right foot into the left side of the net to give LA Galaxy II a 4-3 lead.
OCSC made a couple last minute desperate pushes; in the end, the final LA Galaxy II goal was too much for them to overcome. The game ended in a 4-3 win for LA Galaxy II.
“It’s a disappointing result,” Markkanen said. “If you score three goals at home you should win. We need to take better care of the ball. We were giving it away too easily, and Galaxy is a good counterattack team, that’s how we gave them too many chances.”
After the game, there was much disappointment from the OCSC players.
“In the first half we were conceding easy goals,” Kuningas said. “This game’s over, we can’t change this result anymore. We need to concentrate, focus on the good things we did in the second half and play like that against Sacramento.”
Notably, former NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez was spotted with his son Daniel among the OCSC supporters along with the rest of his family.
“It’s more for my niece and my son to get the experience,” Sanchez said when he was asked why he was at the game. “Sports in general are meant to learn adversity, overcoming adversity, experiencing success, and that’s the biggest thing I push with my family … the point of the sport is to teach you stuff that you’re gonna need in your life.”
OCSC hopes to see more celebrities in attendance later on in their season as the schedule only gets tougher from here.
OCSC will look to bounce back next week as they travel to Heart Health Park to take on Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday, June 5 in a rematch from last week’s matchup, in which OCSC won 1-0.
James Huston is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.