Players from Orange County FC celebrates after scoring a goal against FC Golden State Force in the First Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Omar Alonso
Orange County FC, who qualified for the 2019 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup by finishing with one of the best records in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) in 2018, took advantage of every chance they had in Tuesday’s opening round match. The side opened up play in the tournament by earning a 2-0 triumph over FC Golden State Force at the Orange County Great Park-Championship Soccer Stadium.
The USL PDL (now USL League Two) Southwest Division Champions of 2017 and 2018 started the first half with an abundance of intensity, created chances, eventually finalizing the game with a huge difference in possession over their rivals. But David Preys and his Golden magical gloves were the two barriers they faced eventually not being able to cross that division.
Midfielder Cody Shelton scored the opening goal of the match in the 28th minute. Despite facing some stiff opposition OCFC pulled ahead with the second goal coming from Aaron Lombardi in 69th minute.
Shelton, who has been with OCFC since the 2018 NPSL regular season, seemed to be inspired by his beloved Liverpool FC who made a stunning comeback in the UEFA Champions League earlier that day. Shelton sent a right-footed shot from the center of the box to the right corner to open up the scoring when he received a back-heel
Orange County FC goalkeeper David Preys sends the ball upfield against FC Golden State Force in the First Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Omar Alonso
pass from Blake Frischknecht in the 27th minute.
The visitors did respond by insisting on creating chances, and applying pressuring, but the defense, led by goalkeeper David Preys, kept the score at 1-0 heading into the halftime break.
In the second half, Prey’s impressive saves made him the hero of the night. Over a period of seven minutes he saved two great opportunities with one hand. Gregory Salazar sent a dangerous left footed shot from the outside of the box to the center, but Prey secured the ball with one hand.
“[Prey] was the difference tonight and I told coach Bob on the other team that was the difference and it was not only key saves it was the quality of saves that typically goalkeepers don’t make those types of saves,” said Ocean City FC head coach Paul Caliguri after the match. “So it was really exciting to see his performance and it’s what allowed us to be victorious tonight.”
Another dangerous opportunity came from the visitors at the 57th minute when Daniel Trejo sent a cross looking for Louka Masset who was in the center of the box in a great position. He sent a right footed shot from there but Prey, with a nice diving save, rescued his team once again.
The second goal of the night in the city of Irvine would come at the 68th minute from a 25-yard free kick. Aaron Lombardi took a left footed shot to the bottom of the right corner of the net. It was a goal that would ultimately secure the win for OCFC at home.
The last spectacular save of the night happened minutes before the referee would blow the whistle. The Ruiz and Masset duo tried to capitalize one last opportunity in the 90th minute. Ricky Ruiz sent a cross and Louka Masset sent a left footed shot in the center of the box that was saved with those golden gloves in the top center of the goal by Preys with one hand.
Players from Orange County FC pose for a team photo before the club’s First Round match against FC Golden State Force in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Omar Alonso
“Golden State was a great team and in a lot of ways they dictated the pace of the game they had a lot of possession,” said Caligiuri, the former US international and National Soccer Hall of Famer. “We had some key players. Our striker Blake [Frischknecht], he played fantastic, we had a key moment in the free kick that gave us the second goal, and of course our goalkeeper played fantastic so there were some key players that made a difference, and we played a very good Golden State team.”
While there is plenty to celebrate for Orange County, the club is focused on their next big test: A Second Round match against Orange County SC. That wasn’t lost on Caliguri post-match.
“We have to focus on next week when we play OCSC and that’s going to be the first time in history that the two OC’s play each other,” he said. “So I don’t know if the fans are going to confuse between FC or SC but we’ll take it one game at a time and certainly we can learn some things tonight.”
Caliguri also heaped plenty of praise on the level of play in the region.
“When you look at OC and FC and you look at Golden State and you witness the level of play and the quality of players is really a true testament of the growth of soccer in this country, we hope we can build soccer specific stadiums for this level of soccer throughout the country.”
The winners of tonight’s match will face Orange County SC of the USL Championship on May 15 at the same venue as tonight’s game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. local time.
Photo Credits: Omar Alonso