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1868 FC Attack Ends Season Stymied

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/22/17, 10:04AM EDT


With injuries taking toll for hosts, Cochran’s standout shutout lifted OKC to victory

Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC

RENO, Nev. – Going into its first game in the USL Cup Playoffs, no team in the Western Conference field had produced more goals or shots on goal at home in the regular season than Reno 1868 FC.

But with a squad that had been worn down late in the season by injury, a thrilling second-half surge by the hosts was met by a sterling goalkeeping showcase by C.J. Cochran, which allowed No. 6-seed OKC Energy FC to claim a 1-0 victory at Greater Nevada Field and end No. 3-seed 1868 FC’s outstanding inaugural season in the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday night.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Reno goalkeeper Matt Bersano. “We had our chances.”

Bersano was the reason 1868 FC was facing only a one-goal deficit at the halftime break. Energy FC came out with the momentum of a side that ended the season on a four-game winning streak and almost struck in the opening minute. Bersano’s standout save, getting his left hand down in time to prevent Wojciech Wojcik’s header from finding the net, earned Reno an early reprieve.

But as OKC continued to produce the better chances in the first half there was little Bersano could do to prevent the only goal of the night. A good piece of interplay at the top of the penalty area saw Miguel Gonzalez open up Wojcik for a first-time shot that flew into the top-left corner of the net that kept Bersano motionless.

“We were scored on by a wonder goal,” added Bersano. “It’s a rough way to end such a good season.”

For a team that scored 42 goals on home turf in the regular season, a one-goal deficit wouldn’t have ordinarily posed a big concern. But with the injuries afflicting the club’s attack in recent weeks, it took until the start of the second half for USL Golden Boot-winner Dane Kelly to see action, returning after missing the final three games of the regular season with a hamstring injury.

The Jamaican international added impetus, but each time 1868 FC threatened, Cochran was there to turn the hosts away. Having stepped into the lineup after regular starter and Energy FC captain Cody Laurendi’s injury at the same venue on Sept. 20, Cochran produced a five-save shutout as the chances that came 1868 FC’s way failed to fall.

“We had enough chances to get a result and tie the game,” said 1868 FC Head Coach Ian Russell. “It was just one of those nights where the ball just didn’t find the net. One thing about the sport of soccer is that can happen, unfortunately that happened tonight.”

Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC

As disappointing as the conclusion to Reno’s season was, the feeling of accomplishment remained in the locker room after an inaugural year that had brought success on and off the field for the club. For the likes of Chris Wehan, who went from unknown to USL Assists Champion over his rookie season, there was still plenty to take as positive.

“To be such a part of a good group, I couldn’t ask for anything more to come to Reno and be part of this team,” said Wehan. “But I’m not looking forward to next year yet, just reflecting on this year and celebrating and thanking all the guys around me that deserve credit for my success and for our whole team’s success.”

With a strong foundation in place, the goal now becomes a return to the postseason a year from now, and the chance to celebrate victory.

“It was a great season,” said Russell. “The team clicked really well for a first-year franchise. The fans have been excellent. Looking to carry this onto next year and have another good team here.”

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