The Santa Ana Winds have gone streaking… in the good way. This past Sunday at their alternate home field, Lake Forest Sports Complex, they battled it out with visiting Inland Empire FC and came away with a crucial three points; making that two victories in a row. But the visiting side made sure it wasn’t all fun and games, as heated players, questionable calls, and rough play made their way into this match. Here’s how it all went down:
As we’ve grown accustomed to as Winds FC fans, Santa Ana came out swinging right from the start. By the 4th minute, they had already created two strong shots on goal and weren’t allowing Inland Empire any time with the ball. So it’s no surprise that the Winds drew first blood when center fielder Ruben Menjivar scored in just the 16th minute. It was an offensive thing of beauty; Brian Rodriguez took control of the ball, drew it up the middle bringing the center and left backs in for the double-team, and dished it to Menjivar right before the challenge. At that point, Menjivar’s only test was a frantic goalkeeper rushing in, whom he beat out with a quick rainbow chip in.
Five minutes later, however, #20 for the visiting side took advantage of some defensive miscommunication from the Winds by outrunning his defender on a switch. Once passed the mismatched defensive player, the IEFC striker dribbled a shot right under Santa Ana’s goalkeeper, Adrian Urquizo.
Fortunately for the Winds they have a resilient club. When a team scores on them, they always seem to get one right back, and in this case, their lightning struck the same place multiple times. In the 26th minute, Menjivar crossed a ball from left of the opponent’s net right to the unforgiving boot of Saul Sandoval; Winds up 2 to 1. Then began the storm of emotions. Inland Empire had some things to say to the referee. Bickering was shared between one of their players and the level-headed referee. It was clear the relentless attacks of the Winds were getting to them. To make it worse, only six minutes later Carlos Andrade swiftly set up Zaid Khalil with a tricky back pass, leading to a sharp cross by Khalil and a third goal for the Winds.
Like clockwork, six more minutes later in the 39th, the storm raged on. Complaints by a player, crowd members retorting, ref’s hand hovering over his penalty cards, and general frustration from the visiting side all foreshadowed the hard foul that came against forward Brian Rodriguez of the Santa Ana Winds. While bursting through a crowd of yellow jerseys, Rodriguez almost reached the goalie’s box until he was unnecessarily knocked over in what appeared to be an intentional hard foul. Whether out of frustration or as a last resort, it ended up as a penalty kick in which Rodriguez won; 4 to 1 Santa Ana.
Another goal poured in as Rodriguez scored yet again in the 48th minute when a shot off of the post from Carlos Andrade’s volley during a corner kick deflected near Rodriguez. The forward scooped up a quick rebound and fired it to the back of the net for the fifth goal by the home side. With this strong lead, the Winds began to let up. The offensive energy spent for the first five goals definitely took its toll as you could visibly see them running out of gas. Inland Empire FC took advantage of the moment and whipped up a few goals of their own but it was too far gone. Within the last 10 minutes of the game, they managed to bring it within two, but Santa Ana’s stellar offense answered back with one more, and the clock was sprinting to the finish.
Overall, the Winds played as well on both sides of the ball as they have in any of their other games this season. They reacted well to shots on goal. They cleared the ball when in danger. Their offense was their offense as usual. They played excellent team ball, and, most importantly, they played with daring confidence in the face of rage.
Come watch the Winds battle for third place this Sunday at Lake Forest Sports Complex when old time rivals OC Crew SC attempt to put a damper on Santa Ana Winds FC’s current streak. The game will begin at 6:30pm (PDT) on Field A.