Saturday night in Pacific Beach, the sixth game for Albion PROS of the National Premier Soccer League was under way at Mission Bay High School where the PROS welcomed unbeaten Orange County FC in the Southwest Conference. Despite the PROS dominating the flow of the game, OCFC emerged victorious with the score 1-0 in favor of the visitors after 90 minutes.
The match started in rather encouraging fashion with both sides sticking true to their style, attacking. A fast paced, back and forth affair was what was on display for the Albion faithful and the travelling fans.
Ten minutes into the match, both teams settled back a bit and began to pull lines and let the midfield have a go at each other, and they did.
Fouls flew frequently in and around the half circle, constantly breaking the flow of the game on either side. The first half played out to this extent as the tackles became heavier all across the field.
The PROS were met with a different approach from OCFC than what they are used to at home. Orange County constantly pressed the PROS once entering their half and had multiple defenders on wingers and defensive backs that came onto the attack.
The PROS have a fast, touch-and-go style of play that they work into the final third allowing attackers to penetrate behind defenders usually allowing for shots, crosses and diagonals, Orange County was not having it.
The bright spot for the PROS was the bits of brilliant football when Travis Nicklaw and Michael Sauers would link around the Orange County box, letting loose creatively with quick touches and playing walls to get behind the OC defenders, it appeared the PROS were getting back to their game plus, they had complete control towards the end of the half. That would end abruptly shortly before the half-time whistle.
As the final minute of the match was playing out, the PROS were on the attack, a long ball was played in the direction of Albion forward Travis Nicklaw with his back to the goal, OC defender Daniel Yo was tight on the back of Nicklaw, both players fighting for possession and space, when the Albion forward spun to gain advantage in space, had his elbow connected with Yo. The linesman waved his flag, had a short discussion with the referee and a direct red was shown.
Albion did not cease the amount of possession, nor did they abate the attack starting the second half. It was one mental lapse that cost the PROS points. As a substitution occurred and the team was adjusting, Orange County took advantage of a throw in on the PROS half and caught the defense and goalkeeper Jean Antoine off guard and stunned them with a quick strike from OC forward Staforde Palmer.
The need for an equalizer was evident and saw the introduction of David Luquen who, upon arrival was a menace down the left flank attracting, multiple defenders earning multiple free kicks and corners.
Although the PROS were a man down under the blistering San Diego sun, they did not subside in any form, unfortunately, it would be not be enough. OCFC seemed to be the team with a man down allowing the PROS to control the possession as they were happy to sit back and look for a counter, which did eventually come in the last minute of the match.
The PROS threw everyone up for a last ditch effort on a corner, including Antoine. A clearance in the box saw Antoine chase an OC player to the half when he went down on a tackle from behind to cut the attack, another straight red for the PROS and just like that, the match was over.
The score and match bookings could prove to be tricky for anyone who was not in attendance, the attack, possession and intent to move forward was done by the PROS. Instead of sitting back and looking for a draw in the last 45, PROS head coach Ziggy Korytoski set the team on the attack well before being a goal down, the idea was always to get the win, they just were not prolific in front of the net, as they have been in prior games at home.
“We left it on the field but came up short” said Korytoski after the match, and it was true. Albion deserved more, but once again, the match does not play out that way.
Albion have a very small margin of error to play with in the remaining matches of the NPSL Southwest Conference, and now adding the upcoming U.S. Open Cup, the PROS will need to find a balance while not dropping anymore points home or away for that matter.
It is time to put the ghost of away games to rest and start coming up with points, multiple teams sit atop the league undefeated and it will take a massive climb to catch them, Albion can certainly play to that level and surpass it, now they must match that with goals and wins, not just the possession and intent.