Orange County SC reached the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs, but they won’t make another deep run in the postseason, as Real Monarchs defeated them 6-2 at Zions Bank Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The result knocks OCSC out of the playoffs and ends their season, a poor red card and sloppy defense sinking their prospects of advancement, while Real Monarchs won a playoff game for the first time in their history.
Orange County had the first good chance in the ninth minute, as Michael Seaton pushed forward in transition and sent a pass up to Vinicius, but the forward was whistled for an offside and the shot saved by David Ochoa was negated.
But Monarchs got the opener in the 13th minute. Former OCSC player Noah Powder engaged the buildup, with the ball pinging around the final third, Douglas Martinez sending a cross that flies across the goalmouth, but on the second chance Maikel Chang hit a one-timer that Frederik Due could not stop.
Real Monarchs nearly doubled their lead in the 26th minute, but Jack Blake’s direct free kick clanged off the crossbar and went out of play.
But the home side got a second goal in the 28th minute, as Chang led a breakaway after stripping Walker Hume and Martinez finished off the late run from a cutback.
Orange County was reeling, but they found a lifeline in the 35th minute, when a well-worked free kick routine led to Hume’s knockdown, which was converted in audacious fashion by center back Michael Orozco, his scissor kick hitting the back of the net to make it 2-1.
After halftime, OCSC made two changes – Darwin Jones entered for Vinicius and Danny Crisostomo replaced Christian Duke. But their task became much more difficult, when Harry Forrester was sent off after a second yellow card in the 49th minute in an off-the-ball incident. Forrester purposely seemed to kick Kyle Coffee in the head while the Monarchs player was on the ground, not a hard kick, more like a tap, but with play dead and already on a yellow card, it was totally unnecessary.
Real Monarchs then extended their lead in the 58th minute, Walker Hume — who had a very poor game in defense — inexplicably playing a clearance back towards Tate Schmitt, who sent the cross over in the first place, and the Monarchs man sent the ball back goalbound, to be finished by Jack Blake to make it 3-1.
Orange County nearly found another goal in the 66th minute, but Michael Seaton’s header off a free kick was directed wide of goal by Giovanni Ramos-Godoy, OCSC’s last substitute for the day. Two minutes later, Seaton nearly got a goal, but his tap-in attempt was saved right in front of the goal line by Schmitt to keep it 3-1.
Schmitt, who had a Man of the Match performance on both sides of the ball, added a goal of his own with a side-volley in the middle of the box in the 77th minute off Chang’s cross. Then Erik Holt headed in a goal off a free kick in the 81st minute to get the rout on, and Blake hit another goal in the 90th minute to heap on the goals.
Orange County’s top combination came together one more time, as Darwin Jones fed Seaton for a goal in the 91st minute.
Clearly, Orange County were second-best overall on the day and can’t complain about the loss itself. But Forrester’s red card really let the side down with the game in the balance, and Hume was directly responsible for at least half of the goals conceded, having a really tough day in the office when there was no margin for error. You can argue that even if OCSC had avoided those errors, they may not have had enough, but the mistakes made took what should have been a close game, perhaps even a positive result for Orange County, and led to the end of OCSC’s season.
It’s a tough result, but it can be a cruel game, especially when the playoff format is single-elimination. Full credit to Orange County SC for taking a season on the brink in the summer and turning things around to get to the playoffs, and now we see what comes next for the club with the offseason here.
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