Orange County FC knew they would be in for a tough match when they paid a visit to Oxnard Guerreros FC on Saturday April 8th but the extremely windy weather and physical play from both teams showed why the game was a battle.
Ten minutes into the match OCFC striker Alessandro Canale received a long ball that hung in the wind from keeper Brandon Hugo Gomez and put his shot past keeper Angel Cervantes to earn his third goal of the season.
OCFC keeper Brandon Hugo Gomez has been one of the many bright spots so far and getting an assist on the stat sheet was perfect.
“Brandon’s organization was great,” said assistant coach Ernie Richau. “His long balls really took a lot of pressure off us in the back.”
Despite allowing another early goal, Oxnard stepped up the pressure minutes later when a shot from midfielder Andoni Cabrero was saved by Brandon Hugo Gomez.
In the 22nd minute, Cabrero got involved in the action again when his shot went over the bar after connecting with a corner kick from forward Jonathan Martinez.
Oxnard suffered a big setback in the first half when Ghanaian midfielder Emmanuel “Nana” Ayken had to be subbed off due to injury, but his replacement Luis Rivera set up what could have been the equalizer when his corner kick found an unmarked Araujo in the OCFC penalty area.
It was a great moment for midfielder Armando Flores as he scored his third goal of the season and made sure to salute the traveling OCFC supporters known as the I-5 Army that made the trip to Oxnard.
By the way the wind blew in the first half, OCFC were fortunate to have had a 2-0 lead going into the interval but the second half would also be a battle.
Oxnard forward Eduardo “Magno” Martinez and midfielder Alberto “Tito” Anguiano were at the forefront in creating problems for OCFC throughout the second half.
Magno at times was frustrating OCFC with his physical play but his shots on goal kept Brandon Hugo Gomez busy, including a shot on goal two minutes after the restart.
Oxnard’s effort paid off when Anguiano cut the lead in half in the 56th minute. The OCFC defense were unable to clear a corner kick to safety and Anguiano put a shot past Gomez after receiving a perfect pass from Tomas Araujo.
Orange County FC still led 2-1 but Oxnard appeared to have momentum on their side as they finally gave their fans a reason to get out of their seats and cheer.
“Our mindset was to get another goal,” said defender Daniel Yo. “We were confident and we were in no mood to park the bus.”
Five minutes later OCFC had the chance to increase their lead but midfielder Jonathan Romero sent his free kick over the bar.
In the 65th minute OCFC keeper Gomez was called into action again when he denied Magno.
The match became an exciting back and forth affair as midfielder and second half substitute Andrew Hernandez nearly gave OCFC their third goal when he received an excellent through ball from Jonathan Romero but Oxnard keeper Cervantes made an excellent save to keep the home side alive.
Magno had another shot on goal for Oxnard that was saved in the 71st minute but six minutes later Brandon Hugo Gomez made the save of the game when he denied Anguiano on a shot inside the OCFC penalty area.
The save from Brandon Hugo Gomez proved to be extremely vital because two minutes remained on the clock when another second half substitute sealed the win for OCFC.
English striker Staforde Palmer received a pass from midfielder Armando Flores as OCFC punished Oxnard on the counterattack to earn a huge 3-1 victory.
Palmer earned his second goal of the season and both goals have been scored when coming on as a second half substitute.
“Our depth shows our resiliency,” said coach Paul Caligiuri. “We have utilized our bench in every match and it has proven to be our ingredient to success.”
The OCFC players, coaches, and fans were delighted at the final whistle with the 3-1 victory. The weather wasn’t ideal for soccer and there was a lot of physical play between Oxnard and OCFC, but Staforde Palmer had nothing but positive things to say after the match.
Orange County FC now have three wins and one draw and it seemed as though Paul Caligiuri had another headache in trying to decide who would be selected as man of the match.
“The poise and technique of Alexis Campos was great from beginning to end,” said Caligiuri. “Daniel Yo playing both left back and right back showed his skill and organization on the field.”
But in the end coach Caligiuri knew that keeper Brandon Hugo Gomez was the Man of the Match.
“Brandon was phenomenal,” said Caligiuri. “He made the biggest save of the game when he denied Anguiano in the 77th minute to keep us in the lead. We showed a lot of character as a team.”
And finally we heard from Brandon Hugo Gomez after his impressive performance.
“Going into the second half it was good to have a 2-0 lead but sometimes it can be tough because the team that scores the next goal can set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Gomez. “The fact that we were able to bounce back after Oxnard cut the lead was huge. We stayed strong on both sides of the ball, I never doubted the guys in front of me, and Staforde Palmer sealed the deal for us.”
Next up is a home match against SoCal SC on April 15th in what will surely be a tough match, but Orange County FC have shown they are ready for battle every week. It’s time for the I-5 Army to rally the troops.