It was the first goal.

Say what you will about Omar Salgado's Saturday from Hell, his goal that wasn't or his goal that should have been. Say what you will about the final score being Orange County SC 2, El Paso Locomotive FC 0.

The match could be summed up by Orange County's Michael Seaton in the 36th minute launching himself at Harry Forrester’s long free kick that no one thought he'd reach, then reaching it.

Facing away from goal, Seaton popped the ball off the very top of his head and surprised goalie Logan Ketterer, who had moved into position to pick off the cross before it went to the far post.

Seaton’s knock went the other way into an empty net, yanking the rug out from under a perfectly normal game between well-matched opponents.

Everyone wore expressions of shock, including Seaton.

But, yes. Omar.

Salgado scored what looked like a good goal in the 23rd minute, taking Nick Ross’ pass and blasting it far post past goalie Frederik Due, but the offside flag was raised.

The call certainly shocked the celebrating visitors. Full match replays have not been available to look more closely.

The dagger came in the 58th minute.

Sebastián Velasquez toe-poked a beautiful through ball to Salgado who timed his run up the right wing to perfection, shook off a last-ditch slide from Walker Hume, kept his feet to beat a desperate, diving Due and face an open net…

…And slid his shot wide.

The quick re-start fell to OC’s Aodhan Quinn, who set sail a ridiculous, opportunistic “Route 1” bomb from his own half, lofting the ball over Chiro N’Toko’s head to find Darwin Jones who beat Ketterer to make it 2-0.

Just like that.

It was Locomotive FC's crossing.

Did missing James Kiffe make that much difference? It seemed that way Saturday night.

Kiffe was in Mark Lowry’s 18 but is nursing an injury and did not play.

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Regardless, this was the stat of the game for me. --->

Each team had 19 crosses but Locomotive FC had almost nothing to show for it. The result was that Jerome Kiesewetter was again starved for service, glimpsed only occasionally and rarely in the opponents' 18-yard box.

Credit OCSC head coach Braeden Cloutier who made sure the former Bundesliga forward was wrapped up in the Orange County area.

But it looks as if Locomotive FC has gone from being able to refer plenty of work to The Orthodontist to having signed up for Invisalign

It was anybody’s game.

Despite the score, it really was. El Paso playmaker Sebastián Velasquez continues his ascent, drawing in and blowing by defenders with his mesmerizing runs and touches.

Credit OCSC for matching El Paso in method. Orange County had more slightly more possession than the visitors, 51 percent to El Paso’s 49, and edged the league leaders in passing efficiency, 87 percent to Locomotive’s 86.

But as good as the hosts and visitors both were at knocking the ball around, the two goals came on a restart and an opportunistic heave against the run of play.

Orange County SC is climbing up the Western Conference ladder at exactly the right time. Saturday night’s win was OCSC’s fifth straight and keeps them ahead of Sacramento Republic for fourth place in the USL Championship’s wild and wooly Western Conference.

It’s the same as it ever was.

Locomotive FC remains near the bottom of the USL Championship with just 31 goals this season, tied for 31st with Charlotte Independence and Birmingham Legion.

Once again, El Paso played some beautiful soccer but had nothing to show for it.

Making Kiesewetter come wide to find his touches late in the match couldn’t have helped. While Velasquez does his magic on the ball, Kiesewetter conjures off of it. Lowry is still trying to find a way to bring both together.

The good news for Locomotive FC is there’s home cooking this Saturday against the team that is dead last in scoring — Colorado Springs Switchbacks have just 25 goals — and the fact that one win can put them back above the playoff line.

Say what you will about Phoenix Rising FC running away with the Championship’s Western Conference, no one else in the West is even guaranteed a playoff berth.

It’s all still there for Locomotive FC to grab. The only question is, will it?

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