FULLERTON, Calif. – The Blues dropped an agonizing 2-1 decision to visiting Antigua Barracuda FC on Thursday night in a match that was vital to the Fullerton-based side’s hopes of reaching the USL PRO playoffs. Max Griffin’s go-ahead goal for the Blues in the opening period was negated after the break by Antigua’s Orlando Mitchum, who first leveled the match with a precise right-footed effort and then went on to assist on Kerry Skepple’s late game-winner.
The hosts nearly capitalized on a goalkeeping error in the 10th minute, Antigua’s Molvin James spilling a slow roller by Matt Fondy and recovering just in time to pounce on the ball before the onrushing Griffin could get a foot on it. Griffin did get a shot off just before the hour mark, as he received the ball on a Josh Suggs throw-in from the left and fired dangerously toward goal from a tight angle, only to see the ball whistle just wide.
The continuous’ pressure by the home side finally paid off in the 34th minute, Maykel Galindo beating his marker on the right flank and beautifully centering to a streaking Griffin, who slid into the cross and redirected it inside the far post to give his side the lead.
The on-loan Orlando City striker had a golden chance to add to his tally on a similar play ten minutes after the break. This time a cross was whipped in with pace from the left and Griffin was caught by surprise as it evaded three opposition defenders. Wide open at the doorstep, the 24-year-old couldn’t get a clean touch on the ball and sent it well wide of the frame. To make matter worse, the Blues were punished for the missed opportunity in the most cruel of ways two minutes later.
Allan Russell took won possession in his own half and attempted to move the ball forward, but only to see it ricochet of the referee and fall to an opposition player in a dangerous spot. Lawson Robinson took full advantage of the opportunity by releasing Mitchum on the right side of the penalty area and the striker tied the match at 1-1 with a clinical finish inside the far post.
The Blues were fortunate not to find themselves trailing in the 63rd minute, Mitchum hitting a nice cross from the right and finding the foot of a sliding Luke George, who was unfortunate to see his redirection sail over the frame. Another cross from the right finally gave the Barracudas the lead in the 84th minute, as Mitchum picked out a streaking Skepple at the edge of the five-yard box and the 31-year-old did well to force the ball over the line despite goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski’s excellent initial save.
The visitors from the Caribbean could have put the match beyond doubt moments from full time. With the Blues throwing everything forward, an Antiguabreakaway saw the lightening-fast Mitchum put through on a long attacking ball from midfield. One-on-one with Woszczynski, the striker badly mishit his right-footed finish and saw the ball trickle well wide of the net.