This is what we expect from good football. This is what we expect from professionals. And this is the kind of score you get when two teams tooth and claw for every possession. During the weekend, undefeated divisional rival Moreno Valley FC came to duke it out in an important match for a top spot in the UPSL Southeast Division. And boy did they.
The game began as expected for the Santa Ana Winds: lightning fast. In just the 5th minute, the Winds were gifted a set piece off of a foul from Moreno Valley. Midfielder Cesar Coria received the free kick from the right side and dished it to Neilsen Ocampo right in front of the net. Before you could blink, the ball was in the back of the net. Winds up 1 – 0. Then play began to even out.
Possession change after possession change, the boys in burgundy began to retaliate. If the Winds got a set piece, so did Moreno Valley. If the Winds were tackling well, so was Moreno Valley FC. Both sides were pressuring the ball and challenging the defense. It seemed like luck would be a huge factor between the two, and at times it was. In the 10th minute, the Santa Ana side caught the first wind of luck. After gaining a free kick off of a foul, a Moreno Valley FC striker sunk one into the back of the net, yet for the lucky Winds, it was revoked off of a two-touch penalty. Still 1-0 for Santa Ana.
But all luck eventually runs out, and this game was no exception. Despite defending corners and set pieces really well, Winds FC was committing too many fouls and allowing too many chances. In the 29th minute, one of these fouls ended up changing the score after Fermin Villalba tripped up #14 from the visiting club inside the box. The Moreno Valley player was awarded a penalty kick against the Santa Ana keeper Adrian Urquizo. Unfortunately, Urquizo guessed left, but the striker shot right. Tie game.
The rest of the half went back and forth, with equal possession and fervor. All looked well, and the Winds were playing good team ball against an undefeated club projected to contend for the UPSL title. Despite Moreno Valley FC sneaking in the eventual game-winning goal in the second half, the results could have gone either way. What we can take away from this duel is that it largely came down to the referees of the match. Some calls were made, others weren’t, and if not for the penalty kick call, the evenness of the match would have reflected itself in a 1-1 draw.
With the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying match against in-city rivals La Máquina right around the corner, this level of competition could not have been more timely. In a telling match against a tough opponent, the Winds displayed what it takes to play at a high level, despite the loss.