OC Soccer Club goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky is known for shutouts – and high-fives.
In last year’s championship season, he set the club record for “clean sheets,” as shutouts are called in soccer. And after each game, he’d run behind the goal to high-five his cheering section.
“Our fans supported us and pushed us all the way through the playoffs,” he says. “It felt good to deliver them a championship.”
The defining moment of the season came in the 20th minute of the Championship Final, with 7,000 Tampa Bay Rowdies fans hammering Thundersticks in support of a penalty kick in a scoreless game.
“We were definitely the underdogs,” Rakovsky says. “I remember thinking, ‘If I don’t save this now, it’s going to be hard to win.’
”OCSC was ranked seventh in the playoffs but was riding a nine-game winning streak, thanks to Rakovsky’s 92.5% save percentage, winning most of those games 1-0.
“I watched their player put down the ball,” Rakovsky says. “I watched which way he was facing and how he ran at it, and I committed to the right side. Fortunately, that’s the side he kicked to.”
Rakovsky leaped sideways, fully extending his body, to save the goal – and the game.
Tampa Bay, the overwhelming favorite, fell back on its heels while OCSC took to the attack – scoring three goals in 25 minutes, eventually winning 3-1.
It was the team’s first championship, and also the first for Rakovsky, who played for nine years in Germany and Finland before joining OCSC last year.
“That first night, you can’t sleep because you’re so excited,” he says. “The next two or three days, you still can’t believe it. And now?”
Before he can answer his own question, a golf cart pulls up beside him just outside of Championship Soccer Stadium in the Great Park, where the team plays. A maintenance worker turns off the cart and yells triumphantly: “You won the game! That penalty kick save was incredible. Seriously, thank you.”
With that, the worker starts up the cart and drives off down the path.
Rakovsky smiles and says, “I’m ready for next season.”
OC Soccer Club’s home opener is March 19 against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. Tickets available at orangecountysoccer.com.