After 90 minutes and stoppage time, nothing separated Orange County SC and their northern neighbors Sacramento Republic FC. Both teams dropped in the table following the result, but more importantly, both earned a point in what is still a tense Western Conference.
OCSC nearly struck in the first minute of play, as Walker Hume got his head to a free kick from Aodhan Quinn, but Rafael Diaz was in the right place to save his side from conceding an early goal. It would prove to be the only shot on goal for the hosts.
Sacramento was unable to offer much else in their offensive efforts, with the most dangerous chances being shut down by Walker Hume and Michael Orozco. The defensive pair remained resilient in front of a dangerous counterattacking side. Sac Republic nearly found the goal late in the second half, but the center backs were successful in using their combined size and pace to force the shot over the crossbar. The duo continued to limit the visitors to low quality chances.
The first half ended without much more danger, and the two sides went into the break level.
The second half was more open, with Sacramento looking the most dangerous at the beginning of the half. But both sides continued to struggle for a lethal move for their opponents. Orange County began to dominate the match, outpassing their opponents, but the Sacramento defense managed to largely prevent the danger, forcing numerous set piece opportunities that OC failed to convert.
Sac Republic was limited to just one quality chance: a shot from distance. Dipping dangerously at the far post, Aaron Cervantes made an incredulous effort to get across the frame of the goal and parry the ball out for a corner. The ensuing set piece was easily defended by Orange County, and the half continued.
A corner in the 78th minute was somehow denied by the Sacramento defense, and Orange County recovered well to defend against the counter attack. Aaron Cervantes again managed to get in front of the shot and deny the visitors.
Orange County continued to pile on the pressure, much to the crowd’s delight. The hosts had a valid penalty shout, but head referee Sergii Demianchuk waved the appeals away. After just over three minutes of stoppage time, the match ended level.
Walker Hume spoke after the match, mentioning how “playing alongside guys like Leonardo and Michael Orozco is huge for [his] confidence and how the club is able to defend consistently.” He continued, adding “we worked all week on not being broken down in the counter attack, and it worked well tonight. I thought we did well to control their chances.”
Braeden Cloutier spoke of the difficulty of following up Wednesday’s blistering performance, saying “I thought we came out a bit less sharp tonight. I thought neither team offered too much offensively, but in the West this year, we just have to grab points where we can.”
When asked about Cervantes’ goalkeeping, the head coach had nothing but praise for the youth international. “Aaron really showed his quality tonight, getting across to turn that shot wide. He’s in great form and he’s heading into the US camp, which is good news for the club, US soccer, and of course, our country. I’m immensely proud of his work and how he has matured this year.”
The match may have been a shock after Wednesday’s midweek heroics, but neither side offered much in the way of a dangerous attack, with the teams combining for only four shots on target all match. But there were massive positives: the OC defense completed another resolute performance spanning the entire match and limited their opponents’ offensive chances. Orange County is now in 12th place, but is one point out of ninth and three points out of fifth place with 12 matches to play.
Orange County SC next has a week off from competitive fixtures, but does feature against the US U-17 team, which will include Aaron Cervantes, on Wednesday morning.