HERRIMAN, Utah – Brian Brown’s 92nd-minute header gave No. 5-seed Reno 1868 FC a dramatic 1-0 victory over No. 4-seed Real Monarchs SLC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs on Saturday afternoon at Zions Bank Stadium.
Brown’s goal – his fourth against the Monarchs in three meetings this season – stunned the home crowd and sent 1868 FC to its first playoff win in its first road postseason contest as Real’s season came to an abrupt end. Reno will now await the winner of Saturday night’s contest between No. 1-seed Orange County SC and No. 8-seed Saint Louis FC.
The Monarchs were forced into an early substitution as center back Stanley Okumu had to come off in the eighth minute after a clash of heads with Brown in the game’s opening stages. Real looked a little shaky after reshuffling its defense as Antoine Hoppenot had the game’s first sight of goal in the 12th minute as he volleyed Jerry van Ewijk’s cross over Connor Sparrow’s goal.
It looked as though the Monarchs could lose another starting defender to injury four minutes later as James Moberg stayed down after a collision with Reno’s Zach Carroll. Moberg sorted it out on the sideline for a few minutes and re-entered the fray but eventually had to be subbed off at halftime.
The home side had the best chances before the break, however, as Reno goalkeeper Matt Bersano made a diving stop to deny Chandler Hoffman’s header in the 25th minute and did well to control Sebastian Velasquez’s left-footed drive from the top of the box six minutes later.
1868 FC grew into the game as halftime approached but continued to waste its territorial dominance as Seth Casiple fired a left-footed volley from 25 yards over the frame of the goal. Reno had 65 percent possession at the break but failed to register a shot on target in the first 45 minutes.
The hosts looked more likely to take the lead after the break as Masta Kacher shimmied past a defender and fired a shot towards Bersano’s near post in the 58th minute, but the goalkeeper was able to parry it behind for a corner kick that his defense cleared to safety. Reno finally managed a shot on goal in the 63rd minute as Hoppenot latched onto a long throw-in behind the Monarchs defense but couldn’t get enough power behind his right-footed shot from a narrow angle to trouble Sparrow.
Real continued into the ascendency in the final quarter of an hour as Kacher fired a first-time drive directly at Bersano and then Hoffman saw two quality chances go begging three minutes apart as the Monarchs leading-scorer had a left-footed dink attempt smothered by the goalkeeper before a first-time effort flashed just past the left-hand post.
The game opened up in the final five minutes with both sides desperate to avoid going to extra time. Velasquez had a golden opportunity to open the scoring for the Monarchs with three minutes to play as the midfielder cut inside his defender and fired across Bersano from the right side of the penalty area but his shot went just wide.
Reno went back the other way in the 90th minute as van Ewijk lost his defender in the box but couldn’t direct his header from Hoppenot’s left-wing cross on target. Kacher hit the target on the other end but couldn’t get enough power on his right-footed shot to trouble Bersano in the 91st minute.
Just seconds later, 1868 FC found the game-winner as Brown rose up in the center of the penalty area to head Duke Lacroix’s cross past Sparrow and into the bottom-right corner of the net to give his side the lead. The Monarchs had a chance to equalize from a long throw-in late in stoppage time, but Konrad Plewa headed over to seal the home side’s fate.
90+2’ – RNO – Brian Brown (Duke Lacroix)
#SLCvRNO: Full Match and Opta Box Score
1. Brian Brown has haunted Real Monarchs SLC this season and it was only fitting that the Reno forward was the one to pop up late in second-half stoppage time to head home the game-winning goal. Brown scored twice in 1868 FC’s victory over the Monarchs in July and followed up that performance with another strike in his side’s 2-1 setback a month later but saved his best for when the stakes were highest.
2. 1868 FC continued its momentum after finishing the 2018 USL regular season on a seven-game unbeaten run to push up the Western Conference standings and finish in fifth place. The visitors were sturdy in possession and created some decent chances but lacked a clinical nature in front of goal until Brown’s late header. Reno did get away with a few sloppy misses from the Monarchs, but Matt Bersano was solid in goal as he picked up his seventh shutout of the year.
3. For the second consecutive season, the Monarchs crashed out of the USL Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference Quarterfinals in gut-wrenching fashion on their home turf. The side lost a penalty shootout to Sacramento Republic FC last year after winning the USL Regular Season Championship and saw their season end in a similarly painful defeat on Saturday as the side suffered just its third home loss of the year.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Brian Brown, Reno 1868 FC – Brown completed 83 percent of his passes, won seven of 13 duels and scored the game-winner in stoppage time to send his side into the Western Conference Semifinals.
Western Conference Semifinals – Reno 1868 FC vs. Orange County SC / Saint Louis FC winner
Real Monarchs SLC – End of Season