OCFC falls to SoCal SC in final tune-up

by Art Eftekhari

Orange County FC faced fellow NPSL side SoCal SC at Vanguard University in what turned out to be a physical and heated match

Costa Mesa – The scheduled match between Orange County FC and SoCal SC that took place on March 4th was listed as a “friendly.”

However, Saturday’s match between the two NPSL squads was anything but friendly on the pitch as three red cards were handed out and SoCal head coach Daniel Musatti was asked to leave the field in a first half that contained physical play from both teams.

Aside from the drama, the match began in the worst possible way for OCFC as they fell behind after one minute on a goal scored by Brazilian striker Edmilson.

Captain and center back Erik Mueller has done a great job commanding the defense so far but after the match he pointed out that mistakes took place in the OCFC defense.

“We entered the game with the mindset to play as if we were down a goal but then we actually were down 1-0 very quickly,” said Mueller. “It definitely took a toll on us as we had to play catch-up but it is something we have to work on as a team.”

SoCal SC fielded their top squad and it was evident as strikers Edmilson and Rooni Moreno created problems for the OCFC defense early on.

Throughout the first half it was SoCal SC that was the dominant side with players such as defensive midfielder Soria and center back Dani Lopez setting the tone and controlling possession. Left back Zaragoza kept the OCFC midfield and defense on their heels with his speedy runs up the left flanks.

OCFC midfielder Andrew Hernandez had a shot on goal in the 18th minute that was saved nicely by SoCal keeper Tyler Wilson to keep his side in front.

SoCal continued to pressure the OCFC defense and they extended their lead to 2-0 in the 31st minute when midfielder Jorge Moreno connected with Rooni Moreno on a nice through ball and the tall striker beat keeper Brandon Gomez with a shot that rattled the far corner.

Things wouldn’t get any easier for OCFC as Michael Bryant was shown a straight red only minutes after being brought on after SoCal had taken a 2-0 lead.

Playing with a two-goal lead and a one-man advantage, SoCal made numerous changes after the break.

Paul Caligiuri made changes for OCFC as well and one of his second half substitutes Jacob Perez cut SoCal’s lead to 2-1 minutes after the hour mark.

Center back Max Talbert started the counterattack and the ball found its way to Jacob Perez. Soon after Perez was in the penalty area and his deflected shot went off the post but Jacob Perez pounced on the rebound before keeper Wilson could recover.

One minute later midfielder Chris Gardea had an attempt on goal with a free kick but his shot went wide left.

OCFC kept up the pressure and Perez had an excellent opportunity to level the score when he was alone in the penalty area but he sailed his shot high over the bar.

Drama did continue once again late in the second half as right back Hodis of SoCal and forward Alessandro Canale of OCFC were shown matching red cards after a small scuffle.

OCFC continued to apply pressure but time ran out and SoCal held on for a 2-1 victory.

Naturally the result was disappointing for OCFC but the lone goal scorer Jacob Perez felt there were some positives to take from the 2-1 loss.

“It was frustrating that we weren’t able to equalize but we definitely improved our match fitness because we were playing with ten men nearly the whole second half,” said Perez. “It’s going to be a good match the next time we play them.”

In a bit of irony prior to the match, coach Caligiuri pointed out that playing against a future NPSL conference opponent isn’t always ideal but he felt that this match would be an opportunity to tactically prepare for the opening match next week.  

“We wanted to play a quality match and get more match fit,” said Caligiuri. “We have a very unique group of players that play a dynamic style of soccer. They are relentless and it’s going to be an exciting season.”

OCFC surely improved their match fitness and showed their resiliency against SoCal SC as they refused to quit with players like Max Talbert and Conner Hall making huge defensive plays in the second half.

OCFC now have less than one week to show that they are ready to make some noise in the National Premier Soccer League and the quest begins on March 11th against FC Arizona.