Orange County SC left the door wide open for an upset. The Lights FC couldn’t walk through.
The Lights lost 3-1 to Orange County in Irvine, Calif., on Wednesday, despite being up a man for the last 34-plus minutes of the game. Goalkeeper Andre Rawls was given a red card in the 56th minute for a handball, but that did nothing to slow down the home team, which actually increased its 2-1 lead afterward.
Forward Michael Seaton scored a goal in the 65th minute, his second of the game, and Orange County (14-6-5) was able to bunker from there to move into a tie for first place in the Western Conference.
“Tonight, all of the players will feel the satisfaction of having given everything,” Lights technical director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola said. “Our responsibility, though, is to keep working so that ‘everything’ is enough to win.”
The Lights (7-11-5) took an early lead in the 16th minute but still lost their third straight road game. Midfielder Matt Thomas headed an Eric Avila cross off the crossbar, then headed his own rebound into the net for his third goal of the season.
“I’m sure the first 18 minutes of the game were the best period of time we have played all season,” Sola said. “For me, That’s the kind of Las Vegas Lights I want to see. When you are doing things the way they should be done, then as a consequence you get the benefits. In this case, it was the Thomas goal.”
Following that, though, Orange County showed why it has the second-best offense in the USL and why the Lights have the league’s worst defense.
It took midfielder Thomas Enevoldsen just 10 minutes to even the score, and soon after, Seaton followed with his first goal to give his team the lead.
Orange County didn’t stop scoring even after Rawls’ critical mistake. The goalkeeper used his hands to grab a ball just outside the 18-yard box, earning an automatic red card and forcing backup Casey Beyers into the match.
The Lights didn’t test Beyers though, never forcing the goalkeeper to make a save. Instead their own goalkeeper was tested, as their defenders were too far forward nine minutes after the red card and Seaton won a race to the net.
The forward then calmly slipped the ball under Ricardo Ferrino to give Orange County a comfortable two-goal lead it never came close to relinquishing. The Lights could never break through and scored one goal or fewer for the fourth straight match.
The team returns home next for a match against Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday.
“It’s important to convince the players that they can do it (Saturday),” Sola. “Even though this starting 11 hasn’t played together a lot, they can achieve important things individually and as a group.”