Orange County FC’s chance of redemption in the West Region Final fell just a bit short Saturday night.
Making its second consecutive West Regional Final appearance, Orange County fell at home 6-4 to FCM Portland.
Orange County was shutout in last season’s West Regional Finals. That was the team’s inaugural season within the NPSL.
There was no shutout this year, however Saturday night’s loss stung just as bad.
Portland’s Reed McKenna played spoiler late in the game, ending Orange County’s season.
McKenna broke a 4-4 tie in the 78th minute, sending Portland to the NPSL national semifinals next week against FC Motown.
“The cross came to me, took a touch off my thigh, I turned and hit it as hard I could,” McKenna said. “This was a crazy back and forth game. We were trading goals and nobody could hold a lead. But I felt we were knocking on the door. We saw them getting tired at the end and we just turned it on.”
If statistics were any indication of what kind of match would be played Saturday night, offensive fireworks would have not been expected Saturday night.
After all, both teams entered the game with 14 goals allowed in 12 contests.
Orange County entered the game riding a three-game win streak in the playoffs with a plus-seven goal differential.
Meanwhile, FCM Portland rode a five-game win streak that saw with a plus-eight goal differential.
Orange County and Portland took a 3-3 tie into halftime.
“It really felt like this game could have gone anyway,” Portland head coach Sergio Medel said. “It was an unexpected 6-4 score. We really didn’t expect that. So once we took the lead late it’s one of those moments as a coach where you look at possible substitutes and ask yourself if you should do something or keep things the same.”
Medel made a couple changes, including subbing in Luis Galeano, who wound up scoring Portland’s final goal of the game as time expired in stoppage time.
The game got off to a blazing start.
Tomas Canale nearly gave Orange County an early 1-0 lead but his wide-open shot at an empty net hit the top of the goal post and went out of bounds.
But Canale made up for the miss three minutes later when he scored on an assist from Peter Gregory for a 1-0 in the ninth minute.
But the lead didn’t last.
FCM Portland tied the game in the 17th minute and then took the lead a minute later on a goal from Christian Thyron.
Orange County goalkeeper Hugo Gomez dove to his left, but Thyron’s shot deflected into the net for the 2-1 lead.
Thyron ran to the sidelines near the crowd and celebrated with a dance from the popular video game “Fortnite.”
Orange County’s Michael Bryant tied things up in the 26th minute on an assist from Jonathan Bryant.
But FCM Portland struck right away to retake a 3-2 lead on a goal from Alex White less than a minute later.
Orange County tied things up again at 3-3 in the 34th minute.
Orange County forward Dakota Collins, who was recently named to the Southwest Conference XI, scored on an assist from Connor Gordon. That was Collins’ ninth goal of the season.
“Even when we went up early, you knew Portland would be back,” said Orange County head coach Paul Caligiuri, who was just named the Southwest Conference Coach of the Year. “They certainly deserve the victory for capitalizing on their opportunities. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do so on ours when we had it to put the game away.”
Contributor: Jose Quintero/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Jose Quintero/NPSL.com