Orange County SC faced the best team left on their USL regular season schedule on Friday night, league leaders Real Monarchs, and drew 0-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The biggest moment of the first half for Orange County came about halfway through, when a clear handball by a Real Monarchs player in the box went uncalled. It’s a moment the visitors will clearly rue, but it wasn’t meant to be, unfortunately.
It looked like Orange County might steal the points when Walker Hume made a run on a corner kick in the 85th minute, but his header trickled just wide of the goal.
Full credit to Logan Pause and the coaching staff for the game plan, which clearly indicated OC needed to defend first and pick their spots on the attack, making sure not to burn out in the Utah altitude. While they didn’t have a plethora of good attacking chances, Orange County sought to ensure they were holding it down in the back first and foremost to ensure a chance at a point at the very least, and that worked well. Given that Real Monarchs dominated in the major statistical categories, and OC kept them off the board at Monarchs’ home, it’s a positive result, even if a win would have always been more beneficial for Orange County’s playoff hopes.
One notable development: Wuilito Fernandes played the full 90 at center back for Orange County, and put in a good shift alongside Hume. Fernandes made a last-second clearance near the goal line with the ball goalbound in the second half. Given the issues Orange County have had this season with a dearth of healthy center back options, perhaps Fernandes will get more run at the position in the homestretch of the season.
Orange County stay out on the road next week, for a game that will almost certainly be a must-win affair, against Colorado Springs Switchbacks next Saturday. Orange County still have work to do, but they’ve been playing well and their playoff hopes remain alive for another week.
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