OCFC Turn Off the Lights in Vegas!

by Art Eftekhari

orange county fc continues amazing open cup run with 5-3 win over las vegas lights

Las Vegas, NV – Rumor has it that Eric Wynalda and Las Vegas Lights FC were preparing to host the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

But on May 29 at Cashman Field, the Las Vegas Lights ran into a problem: Orange County Football Club of the National Premier Soccer League.

The OCFC players were full of confidence after seeing off professional neighbors Orange County SC two weeks earlier in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup.

This time it was assumed that the clash with Las Vegas would be another dogfight. But instead it was OCFC that got off to a fast start when Cody Shelton scored in the 6th minute of play.

Winger Dakota Collins streaked down the left flank to send a cross into the Las Vegas penalty area.

After a header from Peter Gregory, the ball found its way to Shelton and he headed the ball past Angel Alvarez to give OCFC a 1-0 lead.

Ten minutes later, OCFC received a gift when a back pass from Mobi Fehr was misjudged by Alvarez and the ball went into the net for an own goal.

Even the OCFC supporters couldn’t believe it as their beloved team led 2-0.

But there was plenty of time remaining and the home team got back into the match when Colombian forward Santiago Echavarria was brought down in the penalty area by Ryan Holland in the 22nd minute.

Echavarria took the penalty himself as his perfectly placed shot got past the outstretched hands of OCFC keeper David Preys to cut the lead to 2-1.

Las Vegas picked up the pressure and continued to control possession but was unable to find the equalizer.

Instead, Orange County FC made it a two-goal game again in the 35th minute when Dakota Collins scored his second goal of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup.

A routine goal kick from Preys was first flicked on by Michael Bryant and then by Blake Frischknecht.

The flick header from Frischknecht found Collins and the former USL player made no mistake when he fired a left-footed shot past Alvarez to give OCFC a 3-1 lead.

Las Vegas Lights head coach Eric Wynalda was losing the chess match to OCFC and knew he had to make some changes.

Wynalda wasted no time and first made a change in goal that wasn’t very surprising when Thomas Olsen replaced Angel Alvarez.

Pablo Cruz was also subbed on Victor Rojas to improve the attack in the midfield.

The substitutions immediately paid off when Las Vegas Lights cut the lead to 3-2 only two minutes after the restart.

Edwin Rivas fired a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area past Preys after some excellent teamwork from Jesus Gonzalez and Echavarria.

Gonzalez’s pass found Echavarria and the Colombian forward set up Rivas perfectly to bring Vegas within one goal.

The OCFC supporters remained positive. But it was clear that the second half would be extremely difficult after Las Vegas gained momentum.

Rivas came close to scoring the game-tying goal, but David Preys denied him with a save at the near post.

Things got ugly in the 73rd minute when an incident resulted in a straight red card being shown to Las Vegas defender Christian Torres after an apparent scuffle with OCFC midfielder Cody Shelton.

But despite being one man down, Las Vegas kept up the pressure and was finally rewarded when a free kick from Jose Villareal was headed home by Junior Sandoval in the 85th minute.

The home crowd was fired up and all the momentum was with the Las Vegas Lights as the match seemed destined for extra time.

But the OCFC players refused to give up and were not in the mood for the night to be prolonged.

"As soon as Las Vegas scored, I looked at everyone and said 'calm down'," midfielder Cody Shelton said. "Take a deep breath, we are going to go get one here and win."

After a throw-in deep in Las Vegas territory, the ball found its way to Cody Shelton in the 89th minute.

Shelton whipped the ball into the Vegas penalty area and local boy Blake Frischknecht half-volleyed the ball past high school friend Thomas Olsen to stun the crowd and give OCFC a 4-3 lead.

Las Vegas had one last attempt on a corner kick to try and find another equalizer.

But after the ensuing corner, OCFC delivered a dagger in the 91st minute when a clearance from Frischknecht found a wide-open Joshua Bynoe down the left touchline.

Bynoe carried the ball into the Las Vegas penalty area and connected with substitute Oscar Flores. The young midfielder calmly faked a shot and slotted the ball past Olsen to give OCFC the 5-3 victory.

Flores had only been on the field for two minutes and ended up scoring the biggest goal in his soccer career.

The traveling contingent of Orange County FC supporters were beyond ecstatic at the final whistle as the home crowd in Las Vegas couldn’t believe it.

It was another amazing night for OCFC as the fairytale continues in the U.S. Open Cup.

But it was also a special night for Blake Frischknecht, the dangerous striker who grew up in Las Vegas.

“It was a dream come true,” Frischknecht said. “I love this city but to have a chance to perform well in front of my hometown crowd was unbelievable.”

The victory for OCFC was the perfect example of a team effort and it was a tough job to pick the man of the match. But in the end, midfielder Cody Shelton was chosen as man of the match.

"Cody scored the first goal of the night and he gave a clinical pass for the winning goal," Paul Caligiuri said. 

"Basically, as a team captain he led OCFC from minute one to the end and stepped up in the critical moments coming up with huge plays."

Prior to the match, OCFC head coach Paul Caligiuri said his guys would win and shock the Las Vegas Lights.

Caligiuri was true to his word because the OCFC players never gave up and were "lights out" by putting on a five-goal display at Cashman Field.

The OCFC players are living the dream in this amazing Open Cup run. But more dreams will be lived when OCFC steps on the field in the Fourth Round to face the LA Galaxy in Carson.