The waters were muddied even more in the Western Conference for the two Southern California USL teams this weekend, as the left for dead LA Galaxy II beat Rio Grande Valley FC 1-0 at home, while Orange County SC’s poor run of form continued with a 3-1 home loss against Reno 1868 FC.
The first game of the pair was Orange County’s on Saturday evening, as they looked to turn over a new leaf and finally get a win in their new, permanent home at Orange County Great Park in Irvine. That they were coming up against the hottest team in the league was a challenge, however, and OC were second-best throughout the evening, as a scramble in the six-yard box led to Jimmy Ockford’s opener for Reno in the 13th minute, before Oscar Sorto turned in an own goal off a Brian Brown cross just two minutes later to put Reno up 2-0.
Chris Wehan, who was a handful all night and helped cause Sorto’s own goal, got on the scoresheet himself in the second half, after OC defender Sola Abolaji was shown a straight red card for tripping Antoine Hoppenot. The call appeared to be a bit harsh, all things considered, but when it rains, it pours for Orange County, it seems.
The only consolation came in second-half stoppage time, as Monday Etim scored for Orange County, which also happened to be the 1,000th goal in USL this season.
The loss leaves Orange County in the same spot in the West, three spots and four points behind the last playoff slot, occupied right now by Phoenix Rising FC. Their winless run is now eight games in league play, and OC’s playoff hopes are starting to slip away, if they can’t string a winning streak together ASAP.
Meanwhile, everyone had considered LA Galaxy II out of the playoff chase, and yes, that’s still probably true, but they had yet another good performance on Sunday, hosting Rio Grande Valley FC in a 1-0 win at StubHub Center. The difference came from Ariel Lassiter’s 21st-minute bomb from well outside the box, catching RGVFC’s defense napping as he stroked it in the net.
And while a late RGVFC chance bounced agonizingly wide of the far post to preserve the shutout, LA’s defense came together to put in a strong performance. Hugo Arellano and Jefrey Payeras, who have played well together in the past, showed a chemistry in the back that has been lacking much of the season. The result? Galaxy II are just four points behind Orange County in the standings, although they are eight points out of the playoff spots. Still, if LA’s improved form continues and OC continues to slump, these teams may swap places in the USL standings by the time the season’s over, something few would have ever anticipated as recently as last week. We’ll see.