While their playoff hopes are out of their control, Orange County SC earned a vital three points in their 3-1 victory vs. Sacramento Republic.
They will need to win their following two matches and will hope that either Oklahoma City Energy and Tulsa Roughnecks fail to earn three points in their final matches respectively to sneak in.
The start of the first half was tepid for both sides. It was a stalemate in midfield with both teams unable to create clear cut chances.
Orange County broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when winger Zach Kobayashi dribbled his way through the defense and hit a shot off the bar and Argentine forward Rodrigo Pacheco hit home the rebound.
Sacramento Republic had a good chance to respond in the 29th minute as a shot hit the bar in the 20th minute.
After the goal, Orange County was on the ascendancy. They moved the ball quickly and stifled Sacramento defensively.
Against the run of play, Orange County conceded in the 43rd minute as Sammy Ochoa hit home the equalizer.
Throughout the second half, they were untroubled and Sacramento had a difficult time creating clear-cut chances against them.
Orange County SC broke the deadlock again in the 80th minute as substitute Dusan Stevanovic found space on the edge of the 18-yard box and smashed it into the top corner.
They added an insurance goal in second half stoppage time as Jerry van Ewijk curled on past the keeper to make it 3-1.
Man of the Match: Zach Kobayashi
Joining the squad at 20 years of age, Kobayashi found it difficult to get game time at the start of the season, but after strong performances as a substitute, he forced himself into the starting-XI and Wednesday’s was arguably his best performance in the shirt.
From the first whistle, he was a constant threat down the left side of pitch as he found space to take defenders on one-on-one. His ability to change speeds as he carried the ball was world class on the day.
His performance was rewarded with an assist in the 29th minute as he slalomed through the Sacramento defense and hit his shot off the bar, which Rodrigo Pacheco smashed home to make it 1-0.
He was taken off for eventual game winning scorer Dusan Stevanovic, but was the best player on the pitch beforehand.
Kobayashi commented on his performance and his first season in Orange County:
“It was good. I was able to get on the ball and found myself in threatening positions to attack defenders. There times where space was open for our backs to get up and cause overloads, which helped me get past defenders….I got to thank the coaching staff because the instilled a lot of belief in me. I was coming off the back off a big injury. It took awhile to get myself back up to speed, but the coaching staff as well as the veterans on the team helped me improve as a player.”
Orange County SC have another must-win match in their final home game of the season on Saturday against Reno 1868 FC if they are to make the playoffs.
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