IRVINE, Calif. – A first-half goal by Ben Mines and six-save shutout by goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky sent Orange County SC to a 1-0 victory against Phoenix Rising FC on Wednesday night at Championship Soccer Stadium as the hosts boosted their postseason chances while dropping Phoenix out of the driver’s seat for the best record in the Championship at the end of the regular season.
The hosts almost grabbed an early lead in just the third minute as Ronaldo Damus found space for a shot from 12 yards that was parried by Phoenix’s Andre Rawls before the Haitian tried to send home the rebound, only to be denied again. The ball squirted loose into the center of the penalty area, though, and with Rawls down, OCSC’s Eric Calvillo had a chance to shoot by Rising FC defender Manuel Madrid headed the ball just wide of the right post to avert the danger.
Orange County’s Sean Okoli had another half-chance soon after kept out by Rawls, and it wasn’t until the 10th minute that Phoenix had its first good look at goal when David Loera drove into space through the midfield and uncorked a bending shot toward the right side of the net that Rakovsky turned wide. The hosts took the lead in the 18th minute, though, as Calvillo picked up possession on the left and drifted inside, taking his defender, before sending a pass back outside to Tommy McCabe. The midfielder sent in a low cross that Okoli controlled and tried to shoot on the turn under pressure, but Mines reacted quickly to claim possession at the top of the six-yard area and eluded Rawls before turning the ball into the open net.
Rawls produced another solid save to keep out a long-range blast by Calvillo just past the half-hour mark, and then had to parry away a shot by Okoli in the 58th minute as the hosts continued to create the better chances. Off the ensuing corner, Mines went close to his second of the night as he struck a half-clearance to the top of the penalty on the volley but sent the shot just over the crossbar.
Phoenix had more possession but had difficulty in finding a breakthrough. With 16 minutes to go Santi Moar sent a long-range shot wide of the left post, while in the 84th minute a header by Arturo Rodriguez toward the right corner of the net was comfortably saved by Rakovsky. Rising FC’s best chance of the game might have been its last, though, as a header by Darnell King off a cross from the right was clipped on by Quinn on the volley at the top of the six-yard area, only for Rakovsky to pull off a one-handed reflex save to turn the ball over. That proved to be all for the visitors as Orange County secured an important win for its own playoff aspirations.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Patrick Rakovsky, Orange County SC – Rakovsky recorded a six-save shutout, including a victory-preserving stop in second-half stoppage time, to help the hosts earn a crucial three points.
OC – Ben Mines (Sean Okoli) 18’