Orange County Soccer Club welcomed in San Antonio Football Club just outside of the playoff places. Despite uncertainty in both sides’ form heading into the match, OCSC looked poised to get back in the win column.
The first half was played mostly in the middle of pitch, as neither team had any great opportunities on goal. Orange County’s closest chance came through Walker Hume, but he struggled to reach the high ball and could not redirect the shot on target.
Darwin Jones had a couple of good crosses, and his attempt to find fellow forward Michael Seaton looked like it would produce the first goal before being stopped by Joshua Yarro, who threw his body in front of the ball.
While OCSC did not have too many looks early, they did do a great job on the defensive end of the pitch. San Antonio only had a few chances, the most dangerous of which was stopped by a great tackle by Leonardo at the top of the 18. In the 41st minute, Billy Forbes had a free kick, but his shot ball curled wide of the net, with Aaron Cervantes comfortably covering his far post anyway.
Orange County almost found the first goal in first half stoppage time as a corner kick fell to Seaton, who got a great shot on goal with the outside of his right foot, but San Antonio keeper Matt Cardone got just enough to keep it out to keep the score level.
The second half started out with a good chance by San Antonio early on, but Orange County poured on the pressure ten minutes into the second half. This culminated in the best chance OCSC had: Harry Forrester had the ball near the corner flag and put in a great cross into the box. Jones was there to reach it and redirect the ball to goal, but Cardone saved San Antonio again.
In the 72nd minute, SAFC had a chance of their own. On-loan striker Frank Lopez broke free of the OC defense, but Aaron Cervantes rushed out to close off the angle and Lopez’s shot bounced off of the far post and away from danger.
The OC defense again was tested greatly at the end of the match. Billy Forbes took a clever touch of the ball to get past Leonardo and Walker Hume. Leonardo reached out in an attempt to kick the ball away, but instead clipped Forbes, sending him to the ground. Lopez moved on the ball and it had looked as if he had scored, but the play was brought back as Lopez was offside, and Leonardo was sent off for his challenge on Forbes.
Just like the first game, both teams failed to score as the final whistle blew. But it also featured the returns of captain Kevin Alston and midfielder Christian Duke. Alston last played in Phoenix back in June, while Christian Duke made his first appearance after a four month injury layoff.
Both players were happy to be back on the field. Duke mentioned that “it felt good,” to get back on the pitch, adding “it has been a long four months for me, and throughout preseason I was working my way to get fit. After I got hurt, and I felt like I had to do preseason all over again. To get out there tonight and put minutes under my belt was huge for me.” Alston echoed a lot of what Duke said, “Feels great. Feels good to get your legs back under you, to be back out with the team, and it’s hard when you are off the field, I’m just itching to get back in.”
Coach Braeden Cloutier talked about this string of home games, saying “we knew these three games were going to be tough and that everyone was going to be involved. Everybody has got to be ready when their number is called because they are going to get an opportunity this week.”
Orange County players will have those opportunities right away in a mid-week home game against a challenging Reno 1868 FC side on July 24th at 1pm. The match will also be featured on ESPN 3.