Two of the top three teams in the Southwest Conference clashed, as FC Arizona and Orange County FC looked to claim the top spot in the standings. Yet like their first match, that outcome came out to be a 0-0 draw.
FC Arizona was coming into the match off an impressive home 4-0 victory over SoCal SC, allowing FC Arizona to claim the top spot in the standings. OCFC looked to claim a valuable home victory and three points, after last week’s hard-fought 2-2 road draw against Riverside Coras.
FC Arizona have remarkably only conceded two goals so far this season and were looking for another tight defensive match in their favor. Orange County FC have impressively used much of their depth to carry them throughout the season to tire and overcome opponents.
Coming into the match, OCFC center back Erik Mueller was a gametime decision due to hamstring tightness and started the match, but was eventually subbed in just the fifth minute.
Both teams first half seemed to be overcome by nerves, as lackluster opportunities came from both teams. FC Arizona had the only true opportunity of the match when a cross from midfielder Ari Sanchez connected with forward Cesar Mexia, who barely headed over the crossbar.
OCFC head coach Paul Cauligiri attempted to change the pace of the game by incorporating the depth OCFC is known for, taking out Edward Morales, Christopher Gardea, and Tomas Canale. Subbing in were Justice Duerksen, Jonathan Romero, and Jose Montes de Orca. That would make a total of four substitutions in the first half, a move designed to create a change of pace in a game that was missing.
The substitutions seemed to work as a quality chance came in the 42nd minute for OCFC. Midfielder Connor Gordon found open space and hit a shot just wide of the post, ending the lifeless first half.
The second half seemed to be déjà vu of the first half as both sides were forcing passes and not creating any scoring chances, once in the second half of the opposing team.
FC Arizona once more had the only real opportunity at goal to change the score line in 87th minute. Yet OCFC goalkeeper Hugo Gomez made a huge save on forward Ari Sanchez’s shot to prevent FC Arizona from stealing a huge three points on the road.
As the whistle blew, the scoreless affair ended in 0-0 draw. Coaches, players, and fans were disappointed not at the result of the game, but that neither team could claim the top spot in the standings. This result continued a trend of a stalemate at the top of the NPSL’s Southwest Conference.