USL is approaching its homestretch for the 2016 regular season, and the two Southern California teams are in the thick of the action out West. Venturing out on the road last week, the Orange County Blues split their results, while LA Galaxy II battled to a point.
The Blues, who have been inching up the table in the midst of a five game stretch in just two weeks, first beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2 1-0 on Wednesday, as Brenton Griffiths scored off a corner kick in the final minutes for a surprising victory. The surprise came because the game appeared to be destined for a scoreless draw, and because Vancouver were atop the Western Conference standings. Taking the win boosted the Blues’ efforts to qualify for a playoff place.
Those hopes remain very much alive, but they could not complete their brutal fixture congestion, on the road on Sunday at Portland Timbers 2, losing 2-1. T2 scored both of their goals in three minutes in the first half, and while the Blues made it interesting in the final moments, after scoring a late penalty courtesy of new signing Max Rauhofer, they could not come back for a share of the points. But again, the Blues are still in good shape, sitting in seventh place with six games to go in the season. They’ll need to pick up some more points, but they are in a good position.
Meanwhile, LA Galaxy II continued their fine form, playing to a hard-fought 0-0 draw against OKC Energy FC on the road on Saturday. LA goalkeeper Clement Diop was the star, as he stepped up to save a penalty kick and made a couple of other key stops to earn the point. Given the long distance in the trip by conference standards, and OKC’s status as a pretty rock-solid playoff team, the result keeps Galaxy II apace the conference standings, as they drop to fourth, but only a point behind the current three-way tie in first place at the moment.
So that makes the SoCal teams’ next games, against each other at Anteater Stadium on Saturday, pretty significant. We’ll have an in-depth preview of that game later this week to get you ready for the showdown, the final one of the regular season between the local rivals.