Guido Gets Goals, puts SD back in playoff hunt.
Loyal stun Orange County to reignite playoff hunt.
San Diego, looking to build off of recent success, welcome Orange County back to San Diego for the last time this regular season. The last time Orange County was here, San Diego had one of the best halves of their season up to that point, but didn’t manage to get on the scoreboard. They ended up dropping the game 2-0, but revenge was in the air.
With the new additions to the team, San Diego looked to take control early, and they did just that. In the very first minute, Loyal already looked the more aggressive side as Alejandro Guido put a good cross in early, but missed everyone. It was a good sign that San Diego was playing with a new found confidence.
The match had a playoff vibe to it, as both teams were going hard into tackles and 50/50 balls and several yellow cards were shown early on against Loyal. There were several moments of confusion on the pitch around these cards and one big moment happened in the 29th minute. Tarek Morad attempted to head the ball back to Jon Kempin, but he did not get enough on it, and OC striker Sean Okoli tried to make a play on it. Kempin came out and made a play on the ball, but also took out Okoli. The center official pointed to the spot and carded Kempin for the play. After a lengthy conversation, the yellow card and penalty was rescinded. The play did not look like it was a penalty live, and on reviewing the replay, Kempin played the ball and had every right to be there. The correct conclusion to the call came, but for a few minutes there was utter confusion on the pitch.
After the hydration break, OC was on the front foot, and they got close in the 39th minute. Jon Kempin made an incredible save on Darwin Jones’s attempt, but the ball fell to Okoli. Loyal defender Elijah Martin made an incredible hustle play to defend the near post, and he was able to clear Okoli’s shot off the line for a corner kick.
Less than two minutes later, it was San Diego’s turn to put some pressure on, and again it involved Elijah Martin. He played Alejandro Guido into space in the attacking third and Guido muscled his way to the top of the box. Miguel Berry made an amazing diagonal run. This caused OC defender Michael Orozco to try to cut Berry off, which created a pocket of space behind him. Guido dribbled into that space and shot near post, past Frederik Due, OC’s keeper, for the first goal of the night.
OC tried to get an equalizer before half, but San Diego’s defense was up to the task and they kept the score 1-0 going into halftime. First half statistics were almost equal between the two teams and the second half was sure to be as entertaining as the first.
Orange County, with a playoff spot slipping away, came out hot to start the second half. There were several good looks for Orange County, but they couldn’t quite put any of them away.
San Diego, though, almost put another one in, and this time it was Miguel Berry who got close. He played the ball out into space for Rubio Rubin to run on to. Rubin pushed it into the box where he played a beautiful pass back across to Berry. Berry tried to play it with the outside of his right foot, but did not get enough on it, and it allowed for OC defender Rob Keirnan to scramble back and sweep it off the line.
San Diego and Orange County continued to trade blows, both offensively and defensively, but it was Guido who would find the breakthrough goal next. This time it was off of a set piece, which is a good sign, as set pieces have not been very kind to San Diego this season. The corner kick was sent in to the back post and Due came out to punch it. One of his own players impeded his attempt and it found its way to Guido at the top of the 18 yard box. He smartly knew Due was off his line, and instead of blasting it toward goal, sent a beautiful rainbow shot and drifted over everyone and into the back of the net.
Orange County threw everything they could at San Diego, even bringing in offensive players for defenders later in the match. While they did generate a lot of pressure, nothing materialized for OC more than a majority of possession. San Diego seemed content to defend as a unit and take their chances only when necessary. After over 7 minutes of stoppage time, the ref blew his whistle and the Loyal players rejoiced.
There was a palpable team chemistry out there on the pitch of San Diego. They huddled together as a team every stoppage, and after the match was over, they celebrated together. San Diego still has the toughest schedule of the three teams vying for the second playoff spot, but San Diego has announced themselves as a contender again. They knocked off LA and OC in the same week, scoring five times and keeping two clean sheets. This sets up a huge game against Group B leaders Phoenix Rising.
Coach Landon Donovan spoke after the match, saying "I'm proud of our guys for going through a bad stretch we lost three in a row and we got two hard-fought draws on the road and now put together back to back wins," Donovan said. "There are three games left two of them against a very good Phoenix team and a very good Galaxy team. It's not going to be easy but with put ourselves in a position now where we control our destiny if we were to win out. We are right in the thick of it now."
The game game against Phoenix is this Saturday. Kickoff time will be 7:30 pm.
41': Alejandro Guido (Elijah Martin)
65': Alejandro Guido