Irvine, Calif. – Michael Seaton scored a hat trick as No. 1-seed Orange County SC cruised to a 4-0 victory against No. 8-seed Saint Louis FC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs on Saturday night at Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park.
Mats Bjurman also scored for the hosts, who took full advantage of their man-advantage after an early red card was shown to Saint Louis midfielder Tony Walls. Orange County will host No. 5-seed Reno 1868 FC in the Western Conference Semifinals next Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. ET.
The hosts got off to the perfect start in the 11th minute when they capitalized on a wayward pass from Saint Louis center back Sean Reynolds. Seaton intercepted the ball inside the attacking third and Thomas Enevoldsen picked it up before slididing a return pass that narrowly avoided a defender on its way to back to the 22-year-old Jamaican, who made no mistake slotting the ball past Tomas Gomez and into the bottom-right corner.
Things got even worse for Saint Louis 11 minutes later as the side was reduced to ten men after Tony Walls was shown a red card by referee Ramy Touchan for verbal remarks towards Seaton, who had clattered through the back of the midfielder with a clumsy challenge.
The hosts pushed to double their advantage after the sending off and nearly did so in the 25th minute as another Saint Louis giveaway led to Bjurman running in on goal, but Gomez was quick off his line to cut down the angle and parry Bjurman’s shot to safety. The goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his own net four minutes later though, as he came to claim Kevin Alston’s cross from the right but was beaten in the air by Seaton, who headed home into an empty net to give OCSC a 2-0 lead.
Saint Louis kept the deficit at two going into halftime as Gomez did well to dive across his goal and get a hand on Darwin Jones’ right-footed drive from distance in the 34th minute. The visitors thought they had a claim for a penalty a quarter of an hour after the break as OCSC goalkeeper Andre Rawls clattered into the back of Joey Calistri as he went to punch a cross clear and the referee whistled for a free kick against the STLFC midfielder.
Seaton rounded out his hat trick in the 64th minutes as Aodhan Quinn dribbled to the endline and squared a pass across the face of goal for the forward to tap home from close range. Orange County added a fourth two minutes later as Bjurman finished off an impressive passing move with a curling right-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area that found the top-right corner.
Gomez managed to prevent things from getting worse for the visitors in the 82nd minute as the goalkeeper denied Jones’ right-footed shot from a tight angle, but it didn’t matter as Orange County had already done enough to secure a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals.
11’ – OC – Michael Seaton (Thomas Enevoldsen)
29’ – OC – Michael Seaton (Kevin Alston)
64’ – OC – Michael Seaton (Aodhan Quinn)
66’ – OC – Mats Bjurman (Darwin Jones)
#OCvSTL: Full Match and Opta Box Score
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Michael Seaton, Orange County SC – Seaton created four chances and converted all three of his shots on target to record his first career USL hat trick and lead Orange County SC into the Western Conference Semifinals.
Western Conference Semifinals – Orange County SC vs. Reno 1868 FC, Saturday, October 27, 10:00 p.m. ET, Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park
Saint Louis FC – End of Season