Week after week everyone hears that OCFC are unbeaten but now the pressure is on Paul Caligiuri’s men to remain in one of the top two positions of NPSL’s Southwest Conference after a convincing win over Riverside on June 3rd at Portola High School.
In the previous meeting of the two teams, OCFC tied Riverside 2-2 away from home but had to play the majority of the match with ten men.
This time things would be different in Orange County.
Connor Gordon put OCFC in the lead in the 17th minute after some excellent ball movement and put his shot past Alonso Lara.
Fifteen minutes later Gordon struck again to give OCFC a 2-0 lead.
Both goals were assisted by striker Alessandro Canale, the man who frustrated Riverside last month with his physical play. Canale didn’t get on the scoresheet this time against Riverside but his two assists demonstrated the attention he draws from opposing defenders.
The home crowd had plenty to cheer about with the two-goal lead and the I-5 Army made their presence felt throughout the match.
“It is always a big advantage to play at home in front of our fans,” said assistant coach Ernie Richau. “Riverside changed their tactics from the previous meeting. The first half they sat back and were very defensive. We did lose focus in the midfield towards the end of the first half when we gave up a goal.”
Nicholas Escalante cut the lead to 2-1 when he scored in the 38th minute to get Riverside back in the game.
The momentum appeared to swing in Riverside’s favor and the pressure continued in the second half but goalkeeper Brandon Gomez came up with two clutch saves to keep OCFC in the lead.
“We completely dominated the first thirty minutes and they had no chances on goal,” said Gomez. “Unfortunately we let off the gas and the rest of the game we had to defend their kickball tactics. It wasn’t part of the game plan but at the end of the day we got the three points. That’s the most important thing.”
Defensive midfielder Daniel Crisostomo wore the captain armband in the absence of Michael Bryant and the UCI footballer was excellent on defense and ball distribution.
“We were getting pressed in the second half and we remained focused,” said Crisostomo. “It was a determination win more than anything else. Brandon came up big for us the whole second half. He kept us in the game and he was man of the match in my opinion.”
The 2-1 win for OCFC now puts them in second place ahead of Riverside on goal difference in the Southwest as both teams have twenty-six points but defender Daniel Yo acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done.
“We can’t get complacent,” said Daniel Yo. “We have to take things one day at a time whether it be practice or the next game. We must stay focused.”
Orange County FC have the bye week to rest but a rivalry match-up on June 18th at SoCal SC will surely be a challenge.
The unbeaten streak continues for OCFC but from here on out every game will be the most important game of the season.