A Tough Loss to Swallow

by Art Eftekhari

orange county fc fall to fc mulhouse portland in npsl western region final

Irvine, CA – One year ago Orange County FC’s season ended after a hard fought 1-0 loss away from home against CD Aguiluchos.

This time everything appeared to be set up for OCFC to advance to the NPSL National Semifinals. Paul Caligiuri’s men were in good form after two road playoff victories against Albion and Golden State.

Confidence was high, and it turned out that OCFC would be hosting Portland in the Western Region Final.

OCFC came out guns blazing and could have scored two goals in the first ten minutes.

In the 10th minute, Alessandro Canale made amends for firing a shot over an open net when he finished off a pass from Peter Gregory to give OCFC a 1-0 lead.

But nine minutes later it was Portland sitting on a 2-1.

First, Freddie Braun barely got a touch with his head on a long throw-in that beat Brandon Gomez to level the score and two minutes later winger Christian Thyron took a shot that surprisingly beat Gomez at the near post.

It didn’t take long for OCFC to answer as left-back Jonathan Bryant made a run down the left flank and sent a pass into the Portland penalty area that was hammered in by older brother Michael Bryant to tie up the score.

But once again, the 2-2 score didn’t last long.

This time forward Alex White took advantage of a defensive breakdown and put Portland back in front less than one minute later.

Fortunately for the home side, leading scorer Dakota Collins came to the rescue in the 35th minute and scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie up the score at 3-3.

The OCFC supporters were feeling upbeat and the fans in attendance definitely got their monies worth seeing six goals in the first half.

Early in the second half, OCFC regained the lead when a shot from Cody Shelton bounced off the post and into the net after Portland was unable to clear a corner kick to safety.

Winger Peter Gregory was at the forefront again when his header off the corner kick kept the ball alive in the Portland penalty area.

OCFC tightened up on defense but the attacks kept coming from Portland and Reed McKenna tied the score at 4-4 when he pounced on a ball that couldn’t be cleared out of traffic after a corner kick from midfielder Ryan Middleton.

With the score tied at 4-4 both teams traded possession, but Orange County FC was unable to find the go-ahead goal as time was winding down.

Eleven minutes remained on the clock when Reed McKenna received a perfect pass and put his shot past Gomez to give FC Mulhouse Portland a 5-4 lead.

OCFC began pushing everyone forward in hopes that an attack would result in another game-tying goal.

But it wouldn’t come and there wouldn’t be any late heroics as the clinching goal was scored by Nicaraguan forward Luis Galeano in stoppage time to give Portland a 6-4 lead.

It was a crushing loss for Orange County FC in front of its home fans.

Once again it was another positive season, but it hurt to lose in the Western Regional Final for the second consecutive season.

“Even when we went up early, you knew Portland would be back,” Orange County FC head coach Paul Caligiuri said.

“They certainly deserve the victory for capitalizing on their opportunities. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do so on ours when we had the chance to put the game away.”