It has been mentioned before on more than one occasion that wins do not come easy in the NPSL’s Southwest Conference.
But on March 23 at Portola High School, it was also proven that points can be given away easily. This was definitely the story when Orange County FC blew a two-goal lead against Temecula FC.
Orange County FC was in control throughout the first half but had trouble finding the go-ahead goal.
Midfielder Armando Flores made a nice run and had an excellent opportunity to score his first goal of the season, but his shot went inches wide of the far post.
It looked as if the match would remain scoreless going into the half with time ticking away.
But suddenly an unlikely run from Ryan Holland in the 43rd minute became trouble for Temecula as the tall center-back’s cross was deflected over the head of goalkeeper Brent Reis and was finished off by Korean winger Dawon Kim to give OCFC a 1-0 lead.
The goal was perfect timing for OCFC and provided some much-needed momentum going into the interval.
Even though OCFC was in control during the first half, the Temecula defenders did a good job of staying compact, protecting their penalty area, and breaking up crosses.
Paul Caligiuri brought on English midfielders Joshua Bynoe and Peter Gregory in the second half to shake things up in the midfield.
It didn’t take long for the moves to pay off as a pass from Bynoe found Gregory in the 69th minute and the talented midfielder broke the offside trap and calmly slotted the ball past Reis to give OCFC a 2-0 lead.
Gregory, who has had spells in Europe with Portsmouth and Portuguese club Beira Mar, featured for OCFC last season and continued to show why he is such a dangerous player.
Joshua Bynoe, who was brought up through the Middlesbrough Academy, made his debut appearance for Orange County FC.
Playing with a two-goal lead and seemingly in control, everything suddenly changed.
A free kick for Temecula was headed high in the air off the crossbar and evaded OCFC keeper Ben Chamberlin.
OCFC was unable to clear the rebound and right-back Emilio Bunnell knocked in the rebound to cut the lead to 2-1 in the 75th minute.
The goal for Temecula gave them the spark they were looking for and immediately brought more pressure and the OCFC players were on their heels.
One minute later a foul was committed, and Temecula had a free kick just outside the OCFC penalty area.
Midfielder Tarrek Nazzal stepped up to take the free kick and put his shot past a diving Chamberlin to even the score at 2-2.
The Temecula players seemed content to hold on for the tie while OCFC looked for the winning goal.
Kim came close to scoring the winner but Reis came off his line to make a fine sliding kick save.
But the winning goal never came and the silence in the postgame locker room was a clear indication of what was going through the minds of the OCFC players and coaching staff.
By Art Eftekhari/Orange County FC
Photo Credit: Glenn Feingerts