Orange County SC will be hoping for a repeat result of its victory against Las Vegas Lights FC earlier this month when the sides meet on ESPN Deportes at Cashman Field on Tuesday night. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC
LAS VEGAS – Orange County SC will try to close the gap to first-place Phoenix Rising FC on Tuesday night as it visits Las Vegas Lights FC at Cashman Field in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN Deportes at 10 p.m. ET.
Orange County is one of three remaining undefeated sides in the Championship after its 2-1 victory against Southern California rival the LA Galaxy II on Saturday night, but still has ground to make up on Group B leader Rising FC, which holds a six-point lead in the standings. OCSC has three games in hand to make up on its rivals, starting with Tuesday night’s visit to Las Vegas, and will be hoping to halve its deficit with a win.
Vegas is part of the reason why Orange County’s deficit sits where it does, having rallied in remarkable fashion to earn a 3-3 draw with Rising FC on two goals in second-half stoppage time on Saturday night at Cashman Field. There’s a long way to go for Lights FC to get into the playoff picture but after securing its first win of the season as well in Week 9, it could be a tougher task than might originally have been anticipated for Orange County as the teams meet for the second time in recent weeks.
Here are three things to watch for as the contest unfolds.
After the attacking successes of recent USL Championship Final participants, Orange County might be bringing back the ethos that it’s defense that wins championships. The visitors are the best defensive side in the league so far this season having conceded only two goals in six games over the course of their undefeated start. Part of that has been down to excellent goalkeeping – just look at Frederick Due’s seven-save masterpiece against San Diego Loyal SC, which is tied for the most saves in a shutout so far this season – but more to the point has been Orange County’s ability to keep opposing teams from finding clear scoring chances. OCSC has allowed an average of three shots on goal per game this season, meaning chances have been few and far between for opponents.
Bringing in a former Championship Golden Boot winner in Ugo Okoli was just the player that Orange County was looking for to replace Michael Seaton last offseason, and the club’s current four-game winning streak has seen the striker start to come into his own for his new club. Okoli has scored three goals in the past four games, including game-winners against Phoenix Rising FC and San Diego Loyal SC that have put OCSC in position to vault into first place if it can take care of business in its games in hand. OCSC has been a solid chance-creator so far this season – it’s averaging 11.2 Chances Created overall per contest and 2.2 Big Chances Created per game – and if Okoli and the rest of the club’s attack continue to ramp up with their finishing – it’s shot conversion rate is still below league average at 11.1 percent – there could be even better things to come.
It’s an impossible standard to maintain, but the impact Blake Frischknecht has made in three games since joining Las Vegas has been a serious game-changer so far for the side. In 60 minutes – all made coming off the bench – over the past three games, the former Utah Valley University standout has recorded three assists, including a spectacular back-heeled pass that set up Ramon Martin Del Campo for Saturday night’s dramatic equalizer against Phoenix Rising FC. While he’s still working up to full fitness, you should expect Frischknecht to see some action on Tuesday night. He’ll be a player Orange County will have to account for when he gets onto the field.