COSTA MESA -- In a battle between the top two teams in the Orange Empire Conference, the Orange Coast College men's soccer team pulled even with Golden West with a hard-fought, 3-3 tie on Tuesday at the Orange Coast College Soccer Complex.
With the draw, combined with Santa Ana's draw with Cypress on Tuesday, the top three teams (GWC 17 points; OCC 16 points; SAC 15 points) remain one point apart from each other in the standings, with fourth-place Fullerton just one point behind the Dons with 14 points.
OCC started the match well and had a few high-quality chances, but the shots missed their targets. The Rustlers regrouped and on their first decent opportunity, they didn't miss as Rigo Cuevas scored off of a feed from Wilbert LoredoSuarez in the 26th minute, putting the Rustlers up, 1-0.
From there, the Pirates put together their best soccer of the match for the rest of the first half and scored a couple of goals to take a 2-1 lead. In the 33rd minute, Takumi Taniguchi sent in a long ball that was intentionally left behind by one OCC player and the ball found its way to a streaking Danny Vargas, who ripped a shot into the lower corner of the goal to tie the match at 1.
Just 90 seconds later, Taniguchi took a feed from Tino Varona and used several moves to work around the GWC defense before ripping a shot into the back of the net to give the Pirates the one-goal advantage heading into the break.
Golden West came out flying in the second half and game became a choppy, ragged, foul-fest, which played perfectly into the Rustlers' favor. GWC tied the match up in the 51st minute when Martin Garcia-Sandoval got behind the defense on a free kick and found the back of the net. Then, after an OCC player was ejected for a second yellow card, GWC used the man advantage to its advantage and Jonathan Ruiz scored in the 74th minute, putting the Rustlers up, 3-2.
Down a man for the final 22 minutes of play, the Pirates continued to work hard and they earned themselves a penalty kick opportunity when an OCC player was knocked down in the GWC box. Vargas stepped up and ripped a perfectly-placed PK into the back of the net in the 78th minute to even the match.
GWC's Adrian Covarrubias had six saves for the Rustlers, while Pablo Ramirez had four saves for the Pirates.
OCC has its bye on Friday, but will return to action on Tuesday at Santiago Canyon, beginning at 3 p.m.