IRVINE, Calif. – A first-half goal by Eric Calvillo proved enough as Orange County SC clinched a place in the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs and moved within a point of San Diego Loyal SC in the USL Championship’s Pacific Division after taking a third consecutive 1-0 victory against SD Loyal at Championship Soccer Stadium on Wednesday night.
The sides exchanged chances in the opening 20 minutes as first Orange County’s Sean Okoli fired a low shot from the top of the penalty area that was saved by SD Loyal goalkeeper Austin Guerrero before Douglas Martinez Jr. sent a long-range effort from the left on target for the visitors which was also comfortably gathered by OCSC’s Patrick Rakovsky.
Orange County took the lead in the 26th minute, though, as after being awarded a free kick to the left of center about 25 yards from goal, El Salvador international Eric Calvillo delivered a perfect curling finish over the wall and into the bottom-left corner of the net.
San Diego almost answered immediately as Jack Blake fired a long-range effort that Rakovsky just got down to parry away as it arrowed toward the bottom-right corner, but then 10 minutes before halftime the hosts almost added a second from another set piece as this time Brian Iloski took aim from the top-right edge of the penalty area with a left-footed shot to the top-right corner that Guerrero was just able to get across to and keep out. Calvillo tried again for the hosts in the 40th minute with a volleyed effort from 25 yards after a long throw-in from the right had been headed clear that hit the target but was saved by Guerrero.
San Diego tried to find a way to level in the second half but were regularly frustrated by OCSC’s defensive positioning and it wasn’t until five minutes remained that the visitors got a good look on goal. A ball played into the feet of Ben Spencer at the edge of the penalty area was turned on into the path of Corey Hertzog, who lifted a cross into the center from the right where Augustine Williams’ volley was saved by Rakovsky.
The visitors carved out one final chance deep in stoppage time as off a corner kick from the left by Charlie Adams, Collin Martin got free to head on target from 10 yards, but once again Rakovsky was on hand to save and secure both his side’s postseason berth and a chance to battle for second place over the final two weekends of the season.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Eric Calvillo, Orange County SC – Calvillo provided the only goal of the game with a superb free kick and had three shots overall while completing 37 of 43 passes and recording nine recoveries in midfield for the hosts.
OC – Eric Calvillo 26’