Soccer is referred to as “the beautiful game.” It also can be as cruel as it is beautiful.
For much of the Third Round Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match between the amateur side Los Angeles Wolves and the USL’s Orange County SC, the former were the better team. They held more possession, took more shots on goal, but ultimately, the finishing quality wasn’t there, and Eric Wynalda’s underdogs fell to Orange County SC, 1-0 by the slimmest of margins.
Orange County earn some revenge over the Wolves who in their first Open Cup appearance eliminated them 4-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in last year’s Second Round. It was the third straight year that Orange County had been eliminated by an amateur team in the club’s opening round.
Wynalda’s men were deemed the “underdogs” but played nothing like it. It was the Wolves that put the “beautiful” in the game, particularly through their midfield in generating the attack, but their finishing was the opposite. They pressed the game, they were the protagonists, while Orange County waited and waited for a counterattack, or any kind of opportunity.
Orange County did create some dangerous, vertical through ball passes during the match, but their best chance came on a dead ball play. After being fouled just outside the box on the right side, Roy Meeus stood over the ball on a free kick in the 41st minute. Meeus stepped up and fired a low, left-footed shot that slipped through traffic in front of the goal and beat Wolves goalkeeper Lucas Nascimento to the opposite post. The goal gave the USL side the 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
Orange County didn’t produce many opportunities in the second half, in contrast to multiple opportunities created by the Wolves, especially a big push for an equalizer late in the game.
After the game Coach Wynalda had some comments on the goal scoring play and the game overall, attributing the goal to bad positioning by his goalkeeper.
“It wasn’t a fitness issue, it wasn’t a talent issue. It was one play, one mistake and bad positioning. That’s what decided the game tonight,” said Wynalda.
For Eric Wynalda, these LA Wolves form a good foundation upon which to enter a next “phase,” one anticipated to be the launching of the recently announced NASL Orange County expansion project.
“This is the beginning of something. Not everybody’s gonna stay with… the next phase, but we have a really good foundation of guys that can play the game at a high level,” said Eric Wynalda after the match.