SANDY, Utah – Orange County Blues FC rallied behind a pair of goals by Pavle Popara to take a 2-1 victory against Real Monarchs SLC at Rio Tinto Stadium. The win was the Blues second in a row against the Monarchs, after taking a 1-0 win on home turf last weekend.
Monarchs were unable to hold onto an early second-half lead following a Max Rauhofer penalty kick in the 59th minute, as a pair of Blues goals by Popara in the 63rd and 73rd minutes put the visitors in front.
Neither side threatened the goal in the first 45 minutes, as narrowly-missed passes and attack-denying tackles ruled the day. The game came to life in the second half for the crowd of 5,791 at Rio Tinto Stadium, as all three goals, seven yellow cards and three ejections occurred in the final stanza.
Monarchs forward Emery Welshman – he of the half-chances in and around the box – got around Blues defender Brenton Griffiths in the 57th minute and was taken down in the penalty area. Rauhofer converted from the penalty spot, to record his club-leading seventh goal of the season and give Real a 1-0 lead
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Blues turned up the pressure, causing Monarchs goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez to make two saves and then clear a ball off the line before Popara struck via a header for the first of his two goals in the 63rd minute. That goal came on a bizarre bounce that saw the ball ping around the penalty area, with the Blues being denied on several occasions before a looping bounce rewarded Popara.
Ten minutes later, Popara struck again for what proved to be the game-winner, blasting a rocket to the back of the net as the Monarchs defense invited the opportunity. The deficit injected energy to Freddy Juarez’s side, however, as the Monarchs pushed ahead, seeking the equalizer. First Rauhofer, then Welshman each saw excellent efforts denied by Blues goalkeeper Pepe Miranda. In the 85th minute Miranda came up huge again, denying substitute Maikon Orellana after a spectacular dummy by Rauhofer.
Midway through stoppage time, another Monarchs substitute, Lucas Baldin, struck a 22-yard free kick around the wall, but stood helplessly as the apparent equalizer caromed off the right post after the first-year player had Miranda leaning the wrong way.
The final moments of the match were marred by a scuffle between the teams, resulting in red cards for both Miranda and Rauhofer, as well as a second yellow card to Griffiths, forcing the teams to finish 10 v 9. Real Monarchs will return to Rio Tinto Stadium next Saturday, August 8, hosting the Tulsa Roughnecks at 7:30 p.m. MT. Orange County improves to 9-8-3 on the season, with 30 points. Real Monarchs fall to 2-11-6, with 12 points. The Blues return home to face Austin Aztex on Saturday, August 8th, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. PT.