After three rounds of U.S. Open Cup play, 11 lower-division teams are left to face off against MLS opposition in June. The most surprising of those teams is Orange County FC, which defeated Las Vegas Lights FC, 5-3, to advance to the fourth round of the tournament.
Orange County FC has shown immense grit in the tournament so far, beating 2018 U.S Open Cup underdogs FC Golden State Force in the first round, and taking out their hometown rivals from the USL Championship Orange County SC in penalties the following match. What OCFC managed to pull off on Wednesday, however, felt different.
OCFC got off to a flying start in the first-half of the match, with Cody Shelton notching his second goal of the tournament in the 6th minute. An own goal from Las Vegas Lights defender Mobi Fehr in the 16th minute and a third from Dakota Collins in the 35th minute were enough to give the team from Irvine, California a comfortable 3-1 lead at the half.
At the beginning of the second half, however, the tables turned. A 47th minute goal from Edwin Rivas cut Orange County’s lead in half, and despite a 74th minute red card to Las Vegas Lights defender Christian Torres, the USL Championship outfit was able to pull level in the 85th minute on the back of a goal from Junior Sandoval.
OCFC did not capitulate, however, and fought back, scoring two late goals in the 89th minute and in stoppage time to secure the victory and move on to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Boasting six different goal scorers through their first three U.S. Open Cup matches, and an impressive +6 goal differential in the same stretch of games, OCFC have proven that they have talent and are a team to be respected.
Orange County will now face the L.A. Galaxy on Tuesday, June 11th. The Galaxy sit second in the MLS Western Conference, and boast talents such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jonathan Dos Santos. The matchup between the two Californian sides, whose stadiums sit only 40 minutes apart, will surely be one to watch.
Other storylines from the third round of U.S. Open Cup play include underdogs Florida Soccer Soldiers and Forward Madison FC, who were both knocked out in round three, as well as Sacramento Republic FC, who won with the last kick of the game thanks to a clinical header by Stefano Bonomo in overtime.
Tuesday’s Open Cup Results:
OKC Energy FC 4 – Tampa Bay Rowdies 3
Wednesday’s Open Cup Results:
North Carolina FC 1 – Florida Soccer Soldiers 0
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1 – Indy Eleven 0
Louisville City FC 1 – Birmingham Legion 0
Saint Louis FC 3 – Forward Madison 1
Memphis 901 4 – Hartford Athletic 0
Charleston Battery 1 – Nashville SC 1 (4-1 on penalties)
Austin Bold FC 4 – San Antonio FC 2
New Mexico United 2 – Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 1
Orange County FC 5 – Las Vegas Lights FC 3
Sacramento Republic FC 1 – Fresno FC 0