Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County Blues FC
IRVINE, Calif. – It might not have matched the side finishing top of the USL Western Conference a season ago, but Saturday night still proved a landmark day for Orange County Blues FC as the side took a 2-0 victory against the LA Galaxy II at Anteater Stadium.
The win was the second in a row against their I-405 Derby rivals for the Blues, and gave the side the season series for the first time since Los Dos joined the USL in 2014. It marked Barry Venison’s first win in his first official game as the club’s head coach.
And, maybe even more importantly, it gave Orange County a vital three points as they look to hold off challengers for a return to the USL Playoffs next month.
“Very good result for us against one of the top teams in the league,” said Venison. “I'm delighted for our players, who showed great spirit, fight and togetherness. All of the hard work they are putting in on the training ground is paying off.”
The outing was another tough one for the Galaxy II, who were held scoreless for the third time in four games, a run of games that has also seen the side go without a win to drop out of the top four in the Western Conference. An early injury to goalkeeper Bennett Sneddon that saw 17-year-old U.S. Youth International Eric Lopez come on for his USL debut was compounded by a red card for defender Hugo Arellano just before the half-hour mark.
The Blues pressed home their man-advantage, and finally took the lead three minutes before halftime. A patient piece of play by Mats Bjurman opened space for a cross from the right, which found Andrae Campbell, and the Jamaican’s low ball back through the penalty area found Richard Chaplow for his second goal for the Blues.
“We had guys up along the wings in the midfield just working everywhere, running everywhere, winning the ball and getting stuck in, and that really helped us out,” said goalkeeper Josh Cohen after the game. “It lifted everyone up and got us going forward.”
The numerical advantage evened up midway through the second half when Oriol Cortes was sent off for the Blues as he received a second yellow card for a hard challenge on Galaxy II winger Bradford Jamieson IV, but Los Dos were unable to find a way past Cohen, who celebrated his recent 24th birthday on Thursday with a shutout as Bjurman’s first goal as a professional wrapped up the victory with 16 minutes to go.
“I’m honored right now, it was a team effort and the boys came out and helped me get a shutout,” said Cohen. “I feel fantastic.”
The Blues now sit in seventh place on 34 points, three ahead of eighth-place San Antonio FC and four ahead of Arizona United SC in ninth. With both teams holding two games in hand on the Blues, however, the side knows that it will need to continue to take wins down the stretch to seal its playoff position. With the first of two meetings with Sacramento Republic FC in their final five games coming next on Wednesday night, there’s little time to celebrate.
“Tonight we are happy, but already preparing for another huge test on Wednesday night against a rampant Sacramento side,” said Venison.