Don’t Stop Believing. That should be Orange County SC’s theme song, as they clawed their way back from 2 down in the closing minutes of the USL Championship season opener in Reno to avoid dropping a full 3 points against a tough Reno 1868 FC squad. It wasn’t pretty, and to be honest, Reno outplayed their opponents from Southern California, but in the end, it’s the final score that counts, and the never die attitude that was a huge part of Orange County’s best season was on display in this first match of this season too.
It’s time to take a look back at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for OC in Reno.
The Good: They don’t give up.
The aforementioned never give up attitude on display for Orange County SC. Coming back after going two down late in a match is tough. Doing it in near freezing temperatures and on the road at a baseball stadium is even tougher. Orange County was able to overcome the odds against Reno, a team that they should be battling all season for playoff positioning.
One of the key players for Orange County that helped spark the comeback was Darwin Jones, who was a spark off the bench for a team that was struggling to get shots on goal. Once he entered the match, it seemed that the OC offence finally started clicking. Jones shot that hit the right post put a scare in the home fans, and gave Orange County hope.
Shortly after going down 2-0, Michael Seaton was able to get Orange County on the score sheet with a nicely place goal to the right of Reno goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, who dove the wrong way in his attempt to stop the shot. “We did it all last year,” Seaton acknowledged after the match. “We did a great job of coming back today.”
Another key to the comeback was the decision to have Orange County keeper Carlos Lopez take the late free kick that set up the game equalizing penalty kick. There were a few seconds where team captain Kevin Alston was contemplating taking the kick. Luckily for Orange County, Lopez took the kick, which was mishandled by Marcinkowski. The ball dropped to the feet of Aodhan Quinn with an open goal in front of him, and as a last resort, Marcinkowski took him down in what could have been a bookable offence. It didn’t matter for Orange County fans, as Quinn was accurate on the penalty, and the match ended 2-2.
The Bad: Defense
Orange County fans know that the defense has been neglected so far. During a busy offseason, the club made plenty of signings, but those signings lacked enough quality defensive players. At the season ticket holder event last week, it was mentioned by some of the players that Giovanni Godoy was practicing with the defense in preparation for the opener in Reno. Godoy was primarily used as an offensive weapon last season, so this came to quite a shock to many.
This news was accurate though, as Godoy started on the right side of the defense, alongside Joe Amico, Walker Hume, and Kevin Alston. This lineup even confused the Reno broadcasters, who multiple times early in the match referenced Orange County using Seaton and Godoy to try and make up for the loss of Thomas Enevoldsen.
Godoy did his best in this new role. He made some decent defensive plays in the first half, but never looked completely comfortable. On Reno’s first goal, it was Godoy who misplayed a ball when attempting to head it out of the penalty box, and then couldn’t stop Brian Brown as he put the ball into the back of the net. After that, it was a shaky remainder of the match for the natural scorer.
The other big question mark for the team heading into the match was the inexperience at goalkeeper. There were a few times that Lopez, who was making his USL debut, looked indecisive. Luckily, those times did not impact the score, as Reno failed to capitalize.
If Orange County is going to compete for a USL Cup this season, the defense will need a strong upgrade.
The Ugly: Missing Flags at the Stadium
Soccer has a very unique atmosphere not seen in other US pro sports, traveling supporters. Although it seems weird to most of the world, in the major US pro sports, there is not “away” section. Fans are mixed throughout the stadium. Soccer is a bit different. Teams have dedicated “away” sections for the fans that have traveled to support their team.
At the match this past Saturday, a few Orange County fans were celebrating their come-from-behind draw by high fiving and taking pictures with the Orange County players. During that time, their 2 flags went missing.There is no evidence that the flags were stolen, but they were nowhere to be found in the vicinity of the “away” section.
As many fans of US soccer know, it’s not as easy to travel to away games as it is in other, smaller countries. For those that make the trip to support their team, they are looking to have a fun time in another city, while (hopefully) cheering their team to victory. Losing a personal item takes the fun out of things, and makes the home team’s fans look bad.
To give Reno 1868 FC and their loyal fans credit, they were just as upset as the Orange County fans were. Many members of the Battle Born Brigade voiced their frustration of the situation, and were helping the Orange County fans in their attempts to find the flags. Greater Nevada Field staff also felt bad about the situation, and many of them also assisted in the recovery efforts.
To top it off, even Reno 1868 FC team President Eric Edelstein was upset over the situation. He spend a good hour trying to review security camera footage to help locate the flags. How many team presidents around the USL would do something like this? All the effort put in by the members of Battle Born Brigade, the Greater Nevada Field staff, and the Reno 1868 FC staff was greatly appreciated by the Orange County fans. In the end, the flags were found, and arrangements have been made to get them back to their owner.
So you might be asking yourself “if this story has a happy ending, why is it considered the ‘ugly’ of the match?” The simple answer is the fact that so many people has to spend so much time over something that didn’t have to happen. Someone must have thought it would be funny to steal from the other team’s fans, but it wasn’t. In pulling this prank, they not only made Reno look bad, but also almost ruined the experience for the Orange County fans that made the trip. They made their team president, who wants all fans to have an enjoyable experience at matches, put in extra work to try and find the flags. They got plenty of the home fans angry. All we hope is that the person that took the flags understands the negative impact it had on an otherwise great match of soccer.
What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below.