IRVINE, Calif. – Nabi Kibunguchy scored in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time to earn Sacramento Republic FC a 2-2 draw with Orange County SC at Championship Soccer Stadium in a game that saw both sides hold the lead after the hosts had rallied from a first-half deficit.
Both sides took a few minutes to settle, but Sacramento went close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute as Cameron Iwasa gained possession in the attacking third and turned away from his marker to create space for a 25-yard shot that flew just wide of the left post. Former U.S. international Michael Orozco then went close five minutes later as he poked a shot just over the crossbar from 15 yards out after good work by Ronaldo Damus to keep play alive in the box, but in the 23rd minute Sacramento took the lead as Hayden Sargis sent a sweeping pass from defense to the right flank for Kharlton Belmar. The Grenada international drove at the Orange County back line as he cut into the right side of the penalty area and then set up a left-footed shot to the far corner of the net.
It didn’t take long for Orange County to respond, however, as off a corner kick from the left Chris Wehan sent a deep ball to the back post that was headed back across goal, where Damus was waiting to rise above the crowd and head in for his seventh goal of the season in his return from representing Haiti at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Iwasa threatened again for the visitors early in the second half as he received a pass from Belmar and rifled a low shot that was saved and then gathered at the second attempt by Orange County’s Patrick Rakovsky, but just past the hour-mark Orange County struck again to take the lead. Mikko Kunigas delivered a ball from the right into the left side of the penalty area, finding Nathan Smith, and after he cut toward the byline Smith delivered a low cross that was met at the top-right edge of the six-yard area by Richards for a neat first-time finish.
The hosts tried to add to their lead inside the final 20 minutes as both Richards and Damus had efforts blocked, while Sacramento’s Mario Penagos tried to find an equalizer with four minutes to go as he cut into the right side of the penalty area but curled his left-footed finish high and wide. Orange County’s Aidan Apodaca almost put the game away with two minutes to go but fired just wide of the right post and just out of the reach of Eero Markannen as he slid in at the back post.
But as it appeared time had run out on the visitors as stoppage time ticked away, Kibunguchy – brought on as a late substitute – scored his first professional goal with a diving header at the back post as Luis Felipe Fernandes delivered a beautiful cross from the left flank to grab a point for the visitors and maintain their positive momentum.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Brent Richards, Orange County SC – Richards notched a goal and assist that appeared to have done enough for the hosts to take victory until the final moments and also completed 52 of 63 passes and had three key passes.
SAC – Kharlton Belmar (Hayden Sargis) 23’
OC – Ronaldo Damus (Brent Richards) 32’
OC – Brent Richards (Nathan Smith) 61’
SAC – Nabi Kibunguchy (Luis Felipe Fernandes) 90+4’