Orange County SC and Toronto FC played to a 1-1 draw on Friday afternoon at UC Irvine in a “closed” to the public match. For Orange County, it was an opportunity to get some actual game time after a few weeks of training. Thanks to multiple returning players, the team looked very in-sync early on which should bode well for them as they work toward the home opener on March 9 in Reno.
Orange County put out a strong starting lineup, with all but one player a recognizable face. With no big name keeper on the roster, Aaron Cervantes got the start, and was solid in the 30 or so minutes he played. The other starters included Jerry van Wolfgang, Michael Seaton, Darwin Jones, Charlie Adams, Christian Duke, Aodhan Quinn, Kontor Owusu-Ansah, Walker Hume, and Kevin Alston. The remaining player in the starting 11 was a face that I did not recognize.
Toronto on the other hand, left most of their key players on the bench. Unfortunately, with no official media guide, and players not wearing numbers, I have no idea of the names of the players. The first half was mostly dominated by Orange County. They had multiple opportunities early on, but could not capitalize. Seaton had a few opportunities that were either stopped by the Toronto keeper, or just missed the target. He was also brought down early in the first half, but the ref waved it off. His best opportunity came off a corner as he got a good head to the ball, but unfortunately aimed it right at the keeper.
In the second half, OC rotated all but Hume and the other center back. Some of the key names on the second squad today were Giovani Ramos-Godoy, Connor Gordon, Sebastian Des Pres, Joe Amico, and Rafa Espinosa. Toronto was able to control most of the second half, as they implemented a high press that bothered the youngsters from Orange County. The high press lead to Toronto’s lone goal when they pressured the OC keeper, and as he attempted to clear the ball, it bounced of the Toronto player and into the back of the net. OC had a couple of opportunities, including a missed shot by Espinosa about 10 yards out, but never got off a good shot until the last seconds of the match, when one of the players on trial was in the right spot at the right time, and knocked one past the keeper from about 10 yards out.
All in all, it was a quality first pre-season match for OC. They did not quite look like a team playing for the first time in 3 months, but also looked like a team that still needs a few more matches before the games count in March.
The starting 11 looked in sync early on. Having multiple key players returning to the roster is a plus.
Sebastian Des Pres and Conner Gordon were impressive in their first match with the club. Look for one or both of them to have an impact during the season.
Aaron Cervantes looked like a solid keeper, showing little to no nerves in his first start. He was vocal, and in charge of his defense. If OC does not sign a clear cut number 1 keeper, then the job is Aaron’s to lose.
Although Harry Forrester did not play, he was at the match working on his fitness. We are looking forward to see what he can bring to the team.