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Fresno FC wakes up with second-half comeback to remain unbeaten at 2-0-4

The Fresno Fire Squad had much to celebrate with two, second-half goals Friday night as the team remained undefeated following a 2-2 draw against Orange County SC.
The Fresno Fire Squad had much to celebrate with two, second-half goals Friday night as the team remained undefeated following a 2-2 draw against Orange County SC. jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Don’t expect Fresno FC head coach Adam Smith or team captain Juan Pablo Caffa to define a 2-2 tie after battling down from a 2-0 hole in the first dozen minutes of play.

“Personally I don’t see it as a victory,” said Caffa, who converted a left-footed free kick in the 84th minute that tied the USL match Friday night against Orange County SC. “I don’t like to tie at home. I like to win, especially at home.”

Smith, whose club had a dozen ties in 34 matches in its USL debut last season, wasn’t satisfied with the tie that kept Fresno FC undefeated in USL Western Conference play at 2-0-4, good enough for a six-way tie for seventh place.

“No, I didn’t feel like it was a win,” said Smith. “We need to turn more ties into wins if we’re going to be in the playoffs.”

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Fans greet Fresno FC team captain Juan Pablo Caffa after his game-tying free kick. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Orange County SC, now 2-3-3, struck quickly with goals in the fourth and 12th minutes of play to silence a crowd of 4,576 at Chukchansi Park.

“We weren’t in the races for 45 minutes, and we’re lucky to come away with a tie,” said Smith.

The Foxes were forced to substitute for first-year player Jaime Chávez, a forward, due to an injury.

That’s when Christian Chaney stepped into action as a substitute for Chávez.

“We were too sluggish, maybe a bit too confident,” said Chaney about the team’s first-half play. He figured he would provide the home team with “intensity to give our team an edge.”

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Fans greet Fresno FC forward Christian Chaney, who scored the Foxes' first goal in a second-half comeback of a 2-2 tie Friday night against Orange County SC. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Chaney headed in a cross from teammate Jackson to put the Foxes on the board.

“I was really fighting for that first goal of the season,” said Chaney, who was so hyped up that he didn’t feel much pain from a kick to the head.

He sprinted to midfield with the ball, then looked upward to pay homage to Moises Martínez, a reserve for the Fresno FC under-23 club and former Fresno Fuego player. He died last month.

“As soon as I got to midfield, I looked up and said it’s for him,” said Chaney. “Good for him, good for his family and good for his team.”

The team honored Martínez’s family and his girlfriend, who is pregnant. They gave her a $1,500 scholarship for their child.

Chaney said the team’s comeback is “the Fresno way. We fight. We’re not going to give up on the field.”

Smith, the coach, blamed himself for not having the players start the game off better.

“We had a great result last week. I gave the guys some extra time off,” he said. “Maybe I should reflect on that. A few of them weren’t ready for tonight. I’ll take responsibility.”

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Fresno FC left midfielder Jackson slides next to an Orange County SC player in the first half of play. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

At least, the team proved it can claw back from a slow start, said Smith.

“The positives are that we showed character. We came back,” he said.

Caffa said he was cramping up when he took the game-tying free kick.

“I was very confident because the first free kick I took was very close to the post,” said Caffa. “I was very confident.”

Caffa did not try to blast the ball or put too much curve on the kick. “I just focused and put it into the goal.”

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