The Orange County Soccer Club (10-8-7) defeated the Oakland Roots Soccer Club (8-10-7), 2-1, at the Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine on Saturday, Sept. 25.
Oakland kicked off the game with immense offensive pressure. For the first few minutes, the Roots dominated the ball and remained persistent with their scoring attempts.
At 9th minutes, OCSC midfielder Brian Iloski had a breakaway chance at the game’s first goal. However, he was caught offside, slowing down OCSC’s tempo.
During the 14th minute, Roots’ forward Brian Brown sped past his defender, leaving OCSC’s goalie Patrick Rakovsky to guard him alone. Rakovsky’s quick instincts saved the ball after Brown smashed it with his left foot from the left side of the box, trying for a goal.
Rakovsky’s save could have shifted the momentum back into OCSC’s favor. However, OCSC’s forward Ronaldo Damus soon shot the ball far over the net from the center of the box, halting any growing energy for OCSC.
Orange County fans erupted in a flurry of boos as Oakland’s Brown assisted midfielder Ariel Mbumba scored the first goal of the game. Oakland was now up 1-0, giving them complete control of the game.
“First half, I don’t think [it] was a lack of effort. It was more a lack of cohesive effort. I think we needed to be more compact and organized. We needed to be better on the ball. We kept giving the ball away so easily and it became a bit of a transition game,” OCSC’s interim head coach Richard Chaplow said.
For most of the remaining first half, both teams struggled to find a proper edge. While players on both sides successfully maneuvered past the opposing defenders, they consistently fell short of scoring.
However, just before the half ended, Mbumba was called for a reckless challenge at 45 minutes, giving OCSC a chance to score.
OCSC’s defender Michael Orozco landed a clean header from the left side of the six-yard box to the center of the goal. Iloski assisted with a cross, securing the first point for the OC team. The game went into halftime as both teams were tied, 1-1.
After a quick break, OCSC entered the second half with more composure and organization. The team now landed passes with greater accuracy, skillfully dribbled past Oakland’s defenders and consistently secured prime shooting positions.
On the other end, the Roots kept up with OCSC’s newfound energy by building on their initial momentum. They were able to stop a few fast breaks by OCSC’s strong offense, and the tension continuously heightened.
As a result, the second half was full of close goals, strong defense on both sides and a much more physical brand of soccer.
An altercation soon arose at the 83rd minute between Roots’ forward Jeremy Bokila and OCSC’s midfielder Mikko Kuningas; ultimately, Kuningas was given a yellow card.
“I was on the ground, and he just kicked me. I wasn’t [going to] just accept that and I hit back. All the refs saw the second hit and I got a yellow for that,” Kuningas said.
At the 90-minute mark, Kuningas redeemed himself by scoring a last-minute goal with his left foot to the bottom right corner of the net after coming off of a corner kick from midfielder Dillon Powers. This boosted his team to a 2-1 lead and allowed OCSC to steal the win.
“I thought we dressed ourselves well [at] halftime. We took in a joy in the end. It’s nice to take in what’s happened to us plenty of times where they scored their goals [at the last second] … it’s nice to be on the other end of it,” Chaplow said.
OCSC will have their next home game against the Phoenix Rising FC at the Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Avi Gokool is a 2021-2022 Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.