IRVINE, Calif. – Ronaldo Damus scored his 14th goal of the season in the fourth minute of stoppage time to lift Orange County SC to a 2-1 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night at Championship Soccer Stadium after the 10-man visitors had equalized only three minutes earlier in a wild finish that saw Orange County outshoot its guests 27-7 but need a last-gasp winner to move into second place in the Pacific Division standings at the end of the night.
Orange County was aggressive from the outset and almost took the lead in the fourth minute when off a corner kick from the left by Mikko Kuningas delivered to the near post, Damus first had a header blocked before Sean Okoli fired on target off the rebound only for Las Vegas goalkeeper Alex Rando to make an outstanding low save to parry the ball away. Okoli was denied again in the 21st minute with a shot to the near post from the right side of the penalty area that was met by another good stop from the Lights FC goalkeeper.
The pressure continued from the hosts and 10 minutes before halftime Rando was called on to make another solid stop as Damus controlled a low ball into the center of the penalty area by Okoli and fired on target, while four minutes later Brian Iloski sent the Haitian international through for a shot that Rando got a piece of as he came off his line to narrow the angle before Lights FC Dekel Keinan cleaned up.
El Salvador international Eric Calvillo was the next to be denied in the 44th minute when Damus played him into the left side of the penalty area with a good angled pass, setting up a first time shot that Rando got across to and palmed away. Off the ensuing corner kick, Kuningas’ delivery was met by Okoli at the near post for a header that went off the crossbar before Michael Orozco’s effort on the rebound was blocked on the goal line by Keinan and cleared to safety.
Calvillo was kept out once again six minutes into the second half as he struck a sweet shot from beyond the top-left edge of the penalty area toward the top-right corner of the net that saw Rando make another diving save. The breakthrough finally arrived by way of an own goal in the 65th minute, however, as Thomas Enevoldsen cut back a pass for Damus for a shot that Tony Leone tried to clear off the line, but instead fired into Keinan, whom the ball caromed off and went over the goal line before Leone could clear a second time.
Keinan made a crucial intervention two minutes later to keep it a one-goal game as Damus got in-between himself and Rando on a ball over the top outside the penalty area, but the Israeli defender stayed with the play and made an outstanding tackle to keep Damus from finishing into an open net. Las Vegas was then almost handed a chance to reply as a loose pass out of the back by the hosts gave the ball to Bruce ElMesmari, who fired from the top-left edge of the penalty area but had his effort deflected wide of the near post.
Las Vegas was reduced to 10 men with 14 minutes to go, however, as Keinan’s night came to an end prematurely following his second yellow card of the contest, and the hosts tried to take advantage to put the game to bed. Okoli had a close-range chance saved by Rando, while Damus broke in behind the Lights FC back line with seven minutes to go while being grabbed by Leone to get onto a pass from Enevoldsen that he sent just over the crossbar.
Damus hit the crossbar as the game ticked into stoppage time off a corner kick by Seth Casiple, and less than a minute later it appeared the missed chances for the hosts would come back to haunt them when Lights FC immediately went up the other end of the field with Dylan Presto, who found space on the right to deliver a cross to the back post that was put home by Danny Trejo with Las Vegas’ first shot on target of the game to level.
With almost the final kick of the game, though, the Haitian came through as Enevoldsen played a through-ball for Darwin Jones as he cut into the penalty area from the right with his first touch taking the ball to the feet of Damus, who clipped a shot past Rando and just inside the right post to give the hosts a massive victory.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Ronaldo Damus, Orange County SC – Damus pulled victory out of the fire for the hosts with his goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time after a performance in which he recorded nine shots and put four on target in addition to hitting the woodwork once.
OC – Dekel Keinan (Own Goal) 65’
LV – Danny Trejo (Dylan Presto) 90+1’
OC – Ronaldo Damus (Darwin Jones) 90+4’