Orange County Soccer Club (12-7-10) defeated Phoenix Rising F.C. (20-5-5), 1-0, in a USL Championship Pacific Division regular season game at Championship Soccer Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 13.
The win was obtained at the 18th minute into the game by OCSC midfielder Ben Mines, who scored his second goal in two games.
“In the past, I have had two or three chances to put the ball away and I was frustrated at myself,” Mines said. “I stayed cool tonight and got one so that’s the important part and build off of that.”
OCSC interim head coach Richard Chaplow commented on the crucial win and gave his thoughts from their previous matchup.
“I thought today was a positive start to the game,” Chaplow said. “We came out fast, we handled the pressure and we deserved our goal, but I don’t think we did enough to control the game in the second half. I thought the last time we played Phoenix here we were by far the better team and didn’t get the result. Today, they put us under pressure and we got the result. I thought we deserved that win in the end.”
OCSC started off the game aggressively, trying to play the ball over the top of the Phoenix defense. Three minutes into the game, they got a real chance at a goal. Mines shifted his way through traffic and delivered a pass to forward Ronaldo Damus on the right side of the box. Damus striked the ball with his left foot toward the goal, only to have the shot blocked by Phoenix goalkeeper Andre Rawls. The rebound bounced right to OCSC midfielder Eric Calvillo and his shot on the open net was deflected by a Phoenix defender just wide of the goal.
Phoenix got its first shot on goal at the 10 minute mark. Phoenix midfielder Jon Bakero led the charge as he weaved through the defense and delivered a nice pass to his teammate midfielder David Loera. Loera drove the ball with his right foot from just outside the box towards the center of the goal. OCSC goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky made a diving save, preventing the goal.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute that OCSC scored the game’s only goal. Calvillo pushed the ball up the left side of the field and dropped the ball off to midfielder Tommy McCabe. McCabe then sent in a cross to forward Sean “Ugo” Okoli in the middle of the box whose pass was right on target to a wide open Mines. His strike flew right past the Phoenix goalkeeper into the back of the net, putting OCSC up 1-0.
They had another chance at a goal in the first half as Calvillo again fired in a high flying shot to the right corner of the goal off a pass from Okoli. However, the shot was saved again by Rawls.
The second half saw a more aggressive Phoenix Rising. They forced Rakovsky into six second half saves, one of which came 51 minutes in. Second half Phoenix substitution midfielder Aodhan Quinn sent in a cross to the head of defender Manuel Madrid, whose header was saved at the top center of the goal by Rakovsky.
Phoenix had another chance 56 minutes in when Madrid had an opportunity for a goal following a lovely cross from Quinn, although the header was saved again by Rakovsky.
Orange County didn’t hesitate to push forward with a counterattack just two minutes later. Calvillo again pushed the ball up the left side of the field, finding Okoli on a nice run in behind the defense. Okoli fired a shot with his left foot to the left corner of the goal, and Rawls made a diving save to force an OCSC corner. Midfielder Dillon Powers’ corner found its way to an open Mines off a deflection, but his touch was just a tad high of the goal.
Phoenix had many other chances to even the score late in the second half but none was closer than in stoppage time. 92 minutes in, Quinn was on the verge of tying the game off a headed pass from defender Darnell King deep in the box. However, Rakovsky made a highlight reel save, displaying his incredible reaction time and saving the win for OCSC.
With six saves and a clean sheet, Rakovsky was rewarded with The Dog Pawrk Brewing Co. Man of the Match.
“In the end I think we’re just happy to get the win,” Rakovsky said. “The first half was pretty okay, but the second half we couldn’t get out of the pressure. We defended very well in the second half, they had one shot from a distance, and the last situation. So even if we are under pressure compared to the beginning of the season we are really compact, or we are really good at defending.”
The win was huge for OCSC in terms of playoff implications. It keeps their chances to host a first-round playoff game alive as they remain in the race for second place in the division. It also widened the gap between them and No. 4 LA Galaxy II in a tight USL Championship Pacific Division race, with only the top four teams securing playoff berths.
“It’s really, really, satisfying,” Powers said. “I think as a team we felt our last performance was a bit lousy, I think we needed a response. So it’s satisfying to get that response … We’ve had a lot of quiet confidence as a team, but we haven’t necessarily put together 90 minutes, that’s really gotten us the points we deserve.”
OCSC remains No. 3 in the division with three games left in the season following their 1-0 win over the Oakland Roots on Saturday, October 16, and they will return home to play against No. 2 San Diego Loyal SC at Championship Soccer Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 20. Tickets can be purchased online, and the game can be streamed on ESPN+ and Cox Communications TV.
James Huston is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.