By Alex Baker/NPSL.com
After holding the Los Angeles Galaxy scoreless for nearly an hour, Orange County FC gave up three second-half goals that saw the team eliminated from this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
Following a spirited first-half performance, a brace from Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez and a late strike from Emil Cuello ended the NPSL side’s cup run.
The match kicked off with a dominant spell of possession from the Galaxy and it took Orange County some time to adjust to the MLS side’s pace. “There was an enormous amount of pressure, I thought they might have come out a little different than what they did, and we had to just correct some things in the central part of the midfield,” Orange County head coach Paul Caligiuri said afterward.
But OCFC gradually grew into the match.
As the match hit the half hour mark, Cody Shelton was released with only Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham to beat. But the linesman’s flag was raised.
What was perhaps OCFC’s best chance of the first 45 came one minute from the halftime whistle.
A quick counterattack saw Dakota Collins played in on Bingham’s goal. But after feinting to shake his marker, the striker released a shot that was collected by the Galaxy keeper.
At halftime the score remained 0-0.
Orange County came out strong on the other side of halftime. But a free kick awarded to the Galaxy 10 minute into the second period saw the MLS side take the lead through Efrain Alvarez.
The midfielder skillfully lifted his effort up and over the wall, putting it in at the near post, with OCFC keeper David Preys unable to keep it out. Alvarez doubled the home side’s lead just five minutes later, combining with his namesake, Favio Alvarez, as an OCFC defensive lapse left Preys stranded, gifting Alvarez an easy tap-in.
“And then of course the second goal, credit them, they put pressure on us but it was just forcing the goalkeeper to make a quick distribution out of bounds – it doesn’t go out of bounds, our center back finds himself wide, he mis-kicks it to the other center back who mis-traps it, and they go for a little sitter,” said Caligiuri.
OCFC defender Aaron Lombardi, a former Galaxy academy player, was all- too-familiar with the threat posed by Efrain Alvarez.
“He’s a young crafty little player who cuts in a lot, so I had to communicate a lot with my winger to sometimes tuck in, but not too much you can do about that free kick,” said Lombardi. “And we got a little unlucky with that defensive mistake and when we play teams like this we’re going to get
Galaxy substitute Emil Cuello added a third in the final minute of regulation time, slicing a low angled shot across the box into the far corner.
“The third goal, you’re just pushing everything forward it’s late in the game, you’ve got fresh guys in obviously, the coach knew how to do the substitutions to put pressure on,” said Caligiuri.
But the 3-0 scoreline didn’t really do Orange County FC justice, especially in light of its resilient first-half showing.
“I thought the first half was good from us and I think it was a good free kick goal and then the momentum got toward them and in the end, they just got those goals and kind of put us away,” said Lombardi.
“We’re happy with what we’ve accomplished, hopefully we’ve represented, not only NPSL, but OCFC, and all the amateur teams and we hope that we made America proud by our efforts,” added Caligiuri.
Currently ranked second in the Southwest Conference standings, OCFC resumes its NPSL campaign when it hosts ASC San Diego on June 15.
Photo Credit: Richard Hartog/NPSL.com