image: OC Blues FC Twitter
A winless Orange County Blues FC (OC) hosted San Antonio FC last night in Irvine, California, marking the second game of a three-game road trip, and the third game in just seven days for SAFC.
The first half saw plenty of chances for SAFC to get on the board, indicating that perhaps a fire had been lit following the match against Los Dos in which offensive production was a bit stagnant. When Danny Garcia gets the ball in space he continues to draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses, and last night was no exception. In only the third minute Garcia drew a crowd of defenders in the middle, leaving Alvarez open, who found an eager Johnson, culminating in a blast on frame that forced OC keeper Brandon Miller to make an outstanding save. Just a minute later, though, OC midfielder Dusan Mirkovic managed to get a lob into the SA penalty box, catching Ford out of position, but the ever-vigilant McCarthy was there for the denial. The back-and-forth action continued in the 12th minute when Alvarez found Garcia in stride on a run on the defense’s right side, but resulted in a corner that came up empty. OC then came back yet again with a lob from midfielder Pavle Popara into forward Akwafei Ajeakwa, and although it looked promising for the Blues for a brief second, McBride was on time for the denial.
SA continued looking for spots offensively, but still had to contend with multiple threats from OC’s own offensive efforts. In the 15th, OC was awarded a free kick when defender Jackson McCracken, at the receiving end of a long pass, was met by McBride, who again, was on time and less than welcoming. The free kick went off the high post, was headed out by McCarthy, ended up back in the SAFC 18, where it was again cleared by a McCarthy header, but was ultimately retained by OC to prolong the already dangerous possession. Finally, the OC threat came to end when Blues defender Andrae Campbell, on a free run to the right side of the goal, got off a blast that was handled skillfully by the captain to keep the game scoreless.
SAFC then appeared to settle in to a counter-attack strategy, having already faced a number of threats from OC and denying them all. In the 24th minute a determined Johnson, surrounded by defenders, skillfully drew the foul, giving Castillo an opportunity for a free kick – a scorcher straight to the goal that was unfortunately denied by the post. A little scuffle and two yellow cards later (Cortes for OC, Castillo for SAFC), Castillo got free and cannoned another blast toward goal in the 35th minute, only to ricochet off the post yet again. Two minutes later, a seemingly frustrated Palacios was called for a penalty on Campbell, and the resulting PK taken by midfielder Didier Crettenand sailed through, giving OC the 1-0 lead.
Although a comprehensive strategy on offense was apparent, with Alvarez, Garcia, and Cochrane routinely popping up in opportune places, the side just couldn’t translate it into any points before halftime.
Thuriere and Okiomah were inserted into the lineup to start the second half, coming on for Reed and Garcia (who, incidentally, received a questionable yellow in the first half). Missed chances from both sides characterized the latter half, as San Antonio increased offensive pressure, but also provided OC with their own attempts.
Palacios provided more quality minutes in this half, making deep runs on the defensive left side in an effort to find his mates in the middle. On one such occasion he found Johnson in the middle, just outside the OC penalty box, but a hard shot missed high and right. Almost immediately after, Palacios forcing a turnover, controlled the ball and lobbed a long one into Okiomah who was on a free run toward goal, but just missed as Miller came out to squash the attempt.
OC looked to add to the lead even as multiple SAFC offensive attacks were either thwarted or off target. The most fortunate event of the night came in the 60th minute when a corner from McCracken found an absolutely wide open Trevin Caesar who headed it toward a goal that seemed a mile wide, but managed to miss right. Shortly after, in the 65th, Ajeakwa off a free kick, got an open shot on goal, luckily hitting the post. And, unfathomably, seconds later, Ajeakwa found Caeser, by himself yet again, who then proceeded to blast one off the top post as well.
As the minutes dwindled, SAFC ramped up the pressure, resulting in some nice looking attempts, but zero points. After Ford came up with a brilliant save in the 80th (off the foot of Caesar, again with little company to deter him), a Thuriere to Cochrane relay looked promising but resulted in a shot that missed the frame. At this point the OC defense attempted to lock down any sort of push from San Antonio, and managed to pull it off. Although our club applied solid pressure, resulting in four free kicks and a corner, the back of the net remained elusive up until the final whistle.
The effort was definitely there for SAFC, regardless of the tough scheduling, but this was a tough one to add to the loss column, the chances in both halves being so plentiful. Also adding to the sting are the few-but-glaring defensive miscues that occurred in the second half, which may not be cause for major concern yet, but something to monitor going forward nonetheless.
SAFC (1-1-2) will get some much-deserved rest until Saturday when they travel to Colorado to take on Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (2-3-0).