The contest between the USL Championship defending champion Orange County Soccer Club (OCSC) and No. 5 El Paso Locomotive FC ended in a 2-2 stalemate at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine on Saturday, May 21.
Both teams had a bit of momentum heading into the game. OCSC was coming off two wins, two draws and only one loss that landed them in 10th place of the Western Conference with 12 points in nine games. Meanwhile, El Paso had an impressive streak of their own in the last five games with four wins, one loss that landed them in sixth place in the Western Conference and 16 points in 12 games coming into the game.
Both teams went back and forth until 30 minutes into the first half when OCSC’s top scoring forward Milan Iloski sent Championship Soccer Stadium into eruption once again. After a mere perfect hat-trick last week against FC Tulsa, Iloski continued his momentum with a goal in the 30th minute. His low left-footed trick shot bounced off the pitch, where there was no way El Paso’s trustee goalkeeper Evan Newton could block the ball, giving OCSC a 1-0 lead. The goal was assisted by OCSC midfielder Seth Casiple.
El Paso tried to retaliate 41 minutes into the first half after a missed attempt by defensive left-back Andrew Fox. Fox was given a golden opportunity following a handball by OCSC defender Brent Richards just outside the box. Fox’s left-footed shot was close but missed over the top right corner.
El Paso continued to apply pressure 45 minutes into the game, where former OCSC and current El Paso midfielder Eric Calvillo’s right-footed shot from outside the box was blocked by OCSC goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky. OCSC maintained a narrow 1-0 lead heading into the second half.
The Texas team wasted no time in the second half as Calvillo’s right-footed shot from the center of the box was saved in the center of the goal by Rakovsky.
OCSC started to get in a little bit of rhythm 51 minutes into the game where Iloski assisted Erick “Cubo” Torres, and Cubo’s right-footed shot from the center of the box bounced off the ground and ricocheted off the post.
El Paso immediately pushed forward with a deadly counterattack following the missed shot by Cubo. Forward Josué Gómez led the charge, firing a ball into the box to an open El Paso forward Luis “Lucho” Solignac. Solignac’s right-footed shot from the center of the box connected to the bottom left corner of the net tying the game at one apiece.
El Paso continued to dominate the second half 70 minutes into the game where the Texas natives turned things around. Following a mistake by Rakovsky, 18-year-old El Paso forward Diego Luna’s right-footed shot from the center of the box assisted by Solignac connected into the bottom right corner of the net. The goal was Luna’s fourth of the 2022 USL Championship season, and it put El Paso ahead momentarily 2-1.
However, OCSC answered beautifully in the 78th minute. Richards crossed the ball from the left side of the box to forward Sean “Ugo” Okoli. Okoli fired in a shot with a bicycle kick, but it bounced off his foot to Cubo on a silver platter. Cubo fired in a left-footed strike from the right side of the box to tie the game 2-2.
Both teams fought hard; however, the game concluded in a 2-2 draw at the end. OCSC will look to get back in the win column when they travel to take on Atlanta United 2 at the Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia on Friday, May 27.
Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.