Draws can be victories when they come under such impressive circumstances. After being down 3-0 at home, OCFC managed to crawl out of such a deficit to draw 3-3 against SoCal SC.
OCFC was playing just their second home game as new franchise in the NSPL. OCFC was undefeated so far in league play and coming across a SoCal SC team that was looking to solidify a road win.
SoCal SC came out of the gate fast. Putting high pressure with their forwards and disrupting passes from OCFC defenders and feeding the lone forward Roonie Moreno to control the pace up top. SoCal SC strategy resulted in a quick goal in the third minute, where Moreno created space in the six-yard box and put through ball for Alex Zaragoza for an easy tap.
OCFC controlled the pace but kept coming up short, putting every shot passed the framework. OCFC had its first chance to equalize in the 13th minute, but Staforde Palmer shot skimmed just wide.
With the OCFC defense having trouble creating passes from their defensive half. Coach Paul Caligiuri decided to make a defensive sub putting in Tyler O’Conner in for Mustafaa Islam during the 42nd minute. SoCal SC took advantage of the new defensive sub continuing the high-pressure front line, forcing another OCFC mistake and creating penalty kick opportunity for SoCal SC. Moreno scored to give SoCal SC a 2-0 lead before halftime.
Coming out at halftime OCFC had penalty kick opportunity when substitute Connor Gordon was fouled in the six-yard box. Another chance was wasted as the penalty kick was saved by SoCal SC goalkeeper Tyler Wilson. Matters could not have gone worse for OCFC when bad bounce created a breakaway for SoCal SC, where Jesus Soria put SoCal SC up 3-0 and what seemed to be the nail in the coffin for OCFC.
The tides changed in the 65th minute and OCFC continued chances, finally created a scoring opportunity when the SoCal SC goalkeeper received a yellow card and penalty kick for OCFC. Michael Bryant converted the penalty kick to give OCFC goal and bring the back the home crowd into the game. Caligiuri chose to make a change in the formation from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 formation, to reduce the SoCal SC high forward pressure and give the team the chance to create more scoring opportunities.
Caligiuri’s formation changed paid off in the 78th minute, as Gordon received a perfect long ball from Edward Morales and blasted the ball past the keeper. The score gave OCFC a one-goal deficit against SoCal SC, with time still left for a possible comeback.
Orange County FC had all the momentum, possession, and SoCal SC appeared to be tiring out from the high-pressure strategy invoked in the first half.
In the 85th minute SoCal had the perfect chance to finish the game, but OCFC keeper Brandon Gomez made a marvelous save to keep any chances of a comeback alive.
With the 90th minute and stoppage time approaching, OCFC created the last opportunity of the match. Gordon created some room in the penalty area, blasted a shot into the back of the net. OCFC coaches, players, and fan exploded in delight. The goal solidified a 3-3 draw and a miraculous comeback for OCFC.
The box score was 3-3 draw between OCFC and SoCal SC. OCFC gained a moral victory and proved to the rest of NSPL that the newcomers are here to compete.