IRVINE, Calif. – Aodhan Quinn scored the only goal of the game as No. 1-seed Orange County SC took a 1-0 victory against No. 5-seed Reno 1868 FC in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs at Champions Soccer Stadium. The victory sent OCSC through to the Western Conference Final for the first time in club history, where it will play host to Phoenix Rising FC next Saturday night.
Quinn’s 12th goal of the season arrived just before the half-hour mark, and marked the high-point of a contest that saw Orange County’s defense bend but not break to Reno’s second half advances to record its second shutout in as many postseason outings.
Reno opened on the front foot and got the first good look at goal in the fifth minute off a free kick from 25 yards from goal that Jerry van Ewijk sent slightly high of the top-left corner of the net. After the initial spell from the visitors, however, Orange County began to impose themselves more on the game. A shot by Thomas Enevoldsen forced a save by Reno goalkeeper Matt Bersano in the 12th minute, and soon after a free kick by Aodhan Quinn almost found a finish as it spun into the center of the penalty area from the right.
The pendulum of momentum then swung back Reno’s way as the visitors manufactured two good scoring chances in short order, the first falling to Antoine Hoppenot after Seth Casiple’s initial shot had caromed to the forward in the 19th minute for a snap shot that OCSC goalkeeper Andre Rawls saved. The second arrived three minutes later as Casiple slid a good low cross through the six-yard area just inches beyond the sliding effort of Brian Brown to turn the ball home.
As Reno carried more of the play, though, it was Orange County that struck first on a brilliant finish by Quinn in the 29th minute. An interception just inside the Reno half by Thomas Enevoldsen saw the ball quickly moved on to Michael Seaton, who slid in Quinn for a low, first-time finish from the left side of the penalty area that picked out the right corner of the net. Enevoldsen almost added a second five minutes later through a similar chance, a swift move upfield being laid off to the Dane by Seaton only for his finish to go the wrong side of the right post.
The goal, though, had swung momentum back toward the hosts. Orange County missed out on another chance to add to its lead four minutes before halftime as a precise ball forward by Quinn to Enevoldsen found the Dane in stride, but Seaton was caught offside when Enevoldsen’s low ball to the top of the six-yard area was delivered to keep it a one-goal game at the break.
The second half opened with little of the danger that the first contained as neither side could find a hold on the contest. Reno’s first decent chance to level arrived past the hour-mark as substitute Mark Anthony Gonzalez’s first time shot skipped just past the left post from 25 yards, while in the 65th minute a better-directed free kick by Van Ewijk was parried away to safety by Rawls.
Orange County again had a golden chance to double its lead with 18 minutes to go with Quinn in the middle of the action as his lifted pass through for Christian Duke was sent just over the crossbar as the Duke tried to lob the advancing Bersano as he broke off his line to try and close down the chance.
As the second half wore on, though, Orange County seemed happy to defend its narrow lead and invited more pressure from the visitors while looking to counter. That strategy almost produced a second goal for the hosts as Thomas Enevoldsen broke forward in a two-on-one and drew the defender before playing in Giovanni Ramos Godoy, only for Bersano to snuff out the shot in the first minute of stoppage time.
The remainder of stoppage time, meanwhile, was all Reno as the visitors threw numbers into attack unlike a week earlier this time there was no late salvation as Orange County’s defense held firm to advance to the Western Conference Final.
29’ – OC – Aodhan Quinn (Michael Seaton)
1. Orange County SC has relied greatly this season on its attacking trio of Thomas Enevoldsen, Michael Seaton and Aodhan Quinn to provide the creativity and finishing to power the best year in its history, so it was little surprise that the trio produced the decisive moment in the club’s biggest game of the year so far. Quinn’s crisp finish from Seaton’s through-ball into the left side of the penalty area after Envoldsen had done the work to win possession and quickly turn defense into attack was a moment of tremendous quality that once again highlighted the impact the triumvirate has had on Orange County’s fortunes this season.
2. The status of Seaton and defender Kevin Alston for Orange County’s Western Conference Final against Phoenix Rising FC next Saturday night will be a major talking point over the coming week, with Seaton’s substitution at halftime in particular a worrying sign for Orange County Head Coach Braeden Cloutier. Without Seaton’s presence, the hosts were unable to connect as smoothly in the attacking half in the second half, and while there were chances for the game to be put away before the final whistle blew, OCSC didn’t quite seem itself when it broke into attack without the Jamaican on the field as Enevoldsen was pushed higher and as a result less able to drop in between the midfield and defensive lines where he can be so devastating.
3. Reno huffed and puffed, and another day might have found a decisive moment of its own, but Orange County’s defense put in a resolute display that survived the visitors’ attacks down the flanks. Reno recorded 33 crosses in all for the contest, but only connected on one as Orange County center back Jos Hooiveld recorded 15 clearances and Alex Crognale another eight to weather the pressure the visitors applied throughout the second half. A chance to visit the Western Conference Final will have to wait another year for Head Coach Ian Russell’s side, which will be disappointed it didn’t test Orange County goalkeeper Andre Rawls more as its season came to an end.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Aodhan Quinn, Orange County SC – Quinn produced a tremendous finish for the lone goal of the game and was in the middle for other good Orange County chances as he completed 36 of 47 passes while winning four of six duels overall.
Western Conference Final – Orange County SC vs. Phoenix Rising FC – Saturday, Nov. 3, 10 p.m. ET, Champions Soccer Stadium
Reno 1868 FC – End of Season