It was the perfect home opener for one of the newest NPSL teams. Everything worked out for Orange County FC as they dominated Temecula FC from start to finish on their way to a 6-1 victory in front of 876 fans in attendance.
Both teams began the 2017 season with draws and many were expecting a close match but a fast start from OCFC set the tone early.
Midfielder Jacob Perez has his name written into the pages of NPSL history as the first player to officially score for Orange County FC. It only took eight minutes as Jonathan Romero set up Perez with the perfect pass and the former Cal State Fullerton Titan easily put the ball past Temecula keeper Brent Reis.
“If felt good to score the first goal,” said Perez. “The atmosphere was great with so many fans that came to support us.”
Nearly twenty minutes later OCFC doubled their lead when right-back Justice Dverksen scored from the penalty spot after he was taken down in the penalty area by Temecula defender Oliver Nelson.
But ten minutes later Temecula cut the lead to 2-1 when OCFC defensive midfielder Michael Bryant committed a foul in the penalty area as the ball was sent high into the penalty area on a free kick.
Temecula midfielder Joseph Ciochetto was fouled and he converted the penalty kick himself to get Temecula on the board.
Bryant was upset with himself over the foul he committed that led to the penalty but he definitely made amends for his mistake when he headed home an Armando Flores corner kick in the 40th minute to give Orange County FC a 3-1 lead going into the interval.
Eight minutes after the restart, Armando Flores went from provider to scorer when he converted the third penalty shot of the match to extend OCFC’s lead to 4-1 after he was fouled on the receiving end of a cross from striker Jose Montes de Oca.
Orange County’s run of goals continued when Bryant scored his second header of the match when he finished off a free kick from second half substitute Chris Gardea. It seemed as though Bryant knew where to be as he leaped high into the air and headed the ball between the legs of Reis.
“We do this play every time in practice and he knows exactly where to place the ball,” said Bryant. “We made eye contact and he put it in the perfect spot…an awesome assist by Chris.”
Playing with a 5-1 lead, OCFC refused to take their foot off the pedal and they continued to feed off the energy from the home crowd, especially the intimidating supporters group known as the I-5 Army.
Striker Jose Montes de Oca was in on the action last week in the scoreless draw against FC Arizona and he continued to cause problems on Sunday when OCFC decided to play the long ball and exploit the Temecula center backs.
Montes de Oca came close to extending the lead on more than one occasion and was actually denied by two fingertip saves from Reis.
It was frustrating for Montes de Oca but he finally got his name on the score sheet in the 90th minute when he received a long ball from captain Erik Mueller and slotted the ball home past Reis to complete the 6-1 victory.
“It took me forever to score,” said Montes de Oca. “That’s soccer for you but at the end of the day I’m happy I got one.”
Montes de Oca is surely one of the most dangerous players on the OCFC roster as the striker from Santa Ana once played professionally for Leon in the top flight of Mexican football. With his skills and touch, he will surely be watched by opposing coaches.
The final whistle blew shortly after the goal from Montes de Oca and there were smiles and cheers all around among the OCFC players, coaches, and supporters.
Head coach Paul Caligiuri was happy with the victory and was quick to point out Bryant’s excellent performance.
“Michael Bryant played multiple roles for us and was great playing as the defensive midfielder,” said Caligiuri. “He played up top and worked through a tough situation when he was called for a foul in the penalty area but came back with two goals.”
Prior to the match, OCFC owner Nader Dejbakhsh was nervous but after the 6-1 win he was at a loss for words.
“I’m speechless,” said Dejbakhsh. “I’m really proud of the guys and what the coaching staff has done and I hope our supporters continue coming out to support us.”
During Caligiuri’s postgame interview, he pointed out that there are still areas for his players to improve.
“We can’t look at the 6-1 victory alone,” said Caligiuri. “There is always room for improvement regardless of the score and we have to focus on the things we did well and also work on what we need to improve.”
Caligiuri also mentioned that it was tough for him to select one player of the game in a match where his squad was firing on all cylinders but surely the OCFC supporters are hoping that Caligiuri will have the same dilemma when his men face City of Angels FC away from home on April 1st.