By Art Eftekhari/Orange County FC
Orange County FC kicked off the 2019 NPSL season at Chaminade College against City of Angels FC on February 16.
Prior to the match, there was concern for head coach Paul Caligiuri because captain Michael Bryant was ruled out of the match with a back injury.
Early after the kickoff, it was evident that the OCFC players were rusty and out of sync and neither team was able to establish control, but the opportunities would eventually come for both teams.
Mistakes in midfield prevented attacks for OCFC and defensive breakdowns led to opportunities for City of Angels on the counterattack.
But new OCFC goalkeeper Pepe Miranda was on top form throughout the night and his diving save prevented City of Angels from taking the lead midway through the first half.
The lack of passes and chemistry for OCFC led to head coach Paul Caligiuri making a substitution by bringing on winger Andrew Hernandez for Kim Gi-bae.
A corner kick late in the first half for OCFC was cleared out of the penalty area, but right to Hernandez and he quickly sent the ball back into the City of Angels penalty area.
The ball went right to Ryan Holland and the English center back wasted no time by firing the ball into the corner of the net to give OCFC a 1-0 lead.
OCFC wasn’t particularly impressive in the first half, but the late goal from Holland gave Caligiuri’s men the confidence they needed going into the halftime locker room.
Throughout the second half, it was OCFC that was in control of the game and midfielders Daniel ten Bosch and Jordan Chrzan turned out to be too much for City of Angels to handle.
Armando Flores came close to doubling the lead for OCFC when his volley after a corner kick was cleared off the line by City of Angels center back Justin Gomillion.
With time winding down in the match, OCFC scored its second goal of the match when Dakota Collins finished off a pass from Cody Shelton in the 82nd minute.
Five minutes later there would be some drama added to the match when City of Angels standout Tomas Araujo got his name on the scoresheet to cut the lead to 2-1 and set up a tense finish.
But OCFC held firm and learned from its mistake to hold on for the 2-1 victory.
It wasn’t the best match played by OCFC, but a win is a win and the previous two seasons showed everyone that victories on the road are hard to earn in the NPSL Southwest.
NPSL debutant Matt Holland earned Man of the Match honors and it was the perfect start for the English center back by scoring a goal and playing excellent defense throughout the night.
“Nerves settled down in the second half,” Holland said. “We battled hard, our work rate was better…and it was a good team effort.”
Caligiuri and OCFC were able to breathe a sigh of relief at the final whistle, but adjustments need to be made ahead of the home opener against Oxnard Guerreros FC on Saturday, February 23.
Photo Credit: Cyrus Navabpour/Orange County FC