L.A. Galaxy II beats Orange County SC, clinches playoff berth
After losing four of its previous five matches, Orange County found its postseason hopes in dire straits.
Orange County was in desperate need of a victory, as it trailed two teams by two points for the final playoff berth in Group B of the United Soccer League standings with two matches to go. One of those teams was its opponent on the pitch on Wednesday night.
Augustine Williams scored twice to lead the L.A. Galaxy II to a 3-1 win over Orange County at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Galaxy earned a split of the season series and, more importantly, the last available playoff berth out of Group B.
Williams broke a 1-1 tie in the 68th minute, drawing a yellow card against Kevin Alston in the box to earn a penalty kick, which he would deposit inside of the right goalpost. Jorge Hernandez tacked on a goal in stoppage time to put the match away.
“It definitely felt great,” Williams said. “We always do this after training, we do penalty kicks. It just brings in confidence knowing that when the time comes up, since I’m the one taking it, I have the confidence when I step up, and I just do what I’m supposed to do, which is put the ball in the back of the net.”
The L.A. Galaxy II (8-5-2, 26 points) and San Diego Loyal (6-4-5, 23 points) entered the night tied for second place in the group. San Diego looked to be keeping the pressure on in its final contest of the season, leading Phoenix Rising FC 3-1 at halftime.
But according to the San Diego Loyal Twitter account, the team walked off for the second straight match in protest of comments made on the pitch. The team Twitter page said, “In the first half a member of Phoenix Rising used a homophobic slur directed at Collin Martin. In response we have decided to walk off the pitch in protest.”
A successive tweet stated, “Last week we made it loud and clear that we do not stand for racism or homophobia. Nothing has changed this week.”
A club statement was issued by Phoenix Rising FC on Twitter, saying, “Shortly before halftime during the Phoenix Rising FC match with San Diego Loyal SC this evening, confusion occurred surrounding the referee’s issuance of a red card to a San Diego player. Phoenix Rising is investigating the claim of a homophobic slur being used by one [of] its players who has vehemently denied these allegations. Phoenix Rising stands with the USL in rejecting and punishing any homophobic behavior.”
Phoenix Rising FC (9-3-2, 29 points) remains in first place, while Orange County (6-6-3, 21 points) was eliminated from playoff contention.
Sean “Ugo” Okoli got Orange County out on the right foot with the first goal of the match in the sixth minute. Aodhan Quinn did well to find Darwin Jones racing down the right wing, and Jones turned the ball back into the middle for the scoring strike.
Four minutes later, the score was knotted. Williams took advantage of a free look in the middle, scoring after he ran into a grounded cross from Hernandez.
Sebastian Nava added an assist, and Abraham Romero stopped two shots for the Galaxy.
Frederik Due made one save for Orange County.
A six-match unbeaten streak saw Orange County go 4-0-2 to start the season, but in dropping four of its previous five matches, Orange County found itself in fourth place entering the night.
Orange County also won the first two meetings against the Galaxy this season, but the Galaxy secured the last two as the playoff race unfolded.
Both teams conclude the season on Saturday. Orange County will travel to face Las Vegas Lights FC at 7:30 p.m., while the Galaxy will be on the road against playoff-bound Phoenix Rising FC.
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