Looking for their first ever victory in USL post-season playoff competition, the Monarchs fielded a squad with six players down on load from parent Real Salt Lake in David Ochoa, Erik Holt, Luke Mulholland, Justin Portillo, Tate Schmitt and Douglas Martinez. Together with Noah Powder, Kalen Ryden, Konrad Plewa, Jack Blake and Maikel Change from the Monarchs they lined up in a transitional 3-5-2 on offense which morphed into a 5-3-2 on defensive stands.
The first 10 minutes were quire ragged with both sides attempting to quell the playoff jitters and feel out their opponents. The center referee allowed a number of “coming togethers” to continue forward resulting in numerous conversations between the coaches and the fourth official as play continued.
Maikel Chang found the first opening in the 13th minute of play, as his run following a ball clear across the box from a deep penetration by Douglas Martinez found Tate Schmitt in the opposite corner. Schmitt sent a low rolling ball back into the box toward the oncoming Chang who calmly finished for an early 1-0 lead.
Following the early goal both teams continue to push for the next 15 minutes without much to show for it beyond an increasing number of bumps and bruises. Possession slowly began to move toward the Monarchs with the next good opportunity coming in the 25th minute when the Monarchs won a free kick just inside the arc above the box and slightly to their left. Jack Black step up and sent the ball just off the woodwork after clearly beating the goalkeeper.
In the 28th minute Orange County defender Walker Hume allowed Maikel Chang to pick his pocket. After drawing in both central defenders during a headlong charge toward the goal, Chang laid back off to an onrushing Douglas Martinez who easily put a second past the Orange County goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
The Monarchs fell back into a more defensive shape, but failed to maintain the lead as fomer USMNT defender Michael Orozco put a fantastic unmarked side volley shot past Ochoa to narrow the lead to 2-1 in the 35th minute following a set piece.
The final 10 minutes of the first half saw a continuation of the heavy challenges and pushes by both sides but ended with the score still at 2-1. The Monarchs finished with 7 shots of which 2 were on goal while Orange County had 5 shots with only the one on goal. Possession was even and yellow cards were at 1 each.
Douglas Martinez, who left at halftime clutching his leg, was replaced by Kyle Coffee and Orange County also elected to make two midfield substitutions at half. However, the biggest change came in the 48th minute when a second yellow card was shown to Orange County’s Harry Forrester for raking his cleats across the head of Kyle Coffee.
Rather than immediately shifting to a patient short possession game looking to run the legs off Orange County who were left with a single substitution and playing a man down, the Monarchs continued to press and allowed the game to continue in a fast paced back and forth flow.
Ragged play in front of Orange County’s goal allowed Tate Schmitt to threaten goal and Jack Blake to poke a 3rd rebound and misplaced clearance into goal for a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute. This led Orange County to make its final substitution in the 64th minute and bring another attack player in and move to a back three.
David Ochoa was late coming off his goal line in the 66th minute on an Orange County set piece but Michael Seaton failed to direct his header on goal and then minutes later Tate Schmitt made a save off the line in the 69th minute to spared the Monarchs further blushes as Orange County failed to go quietly.
Frederick Due in goal for Orange County responded as well with a couple of excellent saves until Tate Schmitt finally found his own goal with a nice side volley in the 77th minute. Erik Holt followed with his own easy headed goal off a corner kick in the 81st minute and pushed the score to 5-1.
To add insult to injury, Jack Blake easily took a ball away from Aodhan Quinn in the 90th minute deep just outside the box and found a 2nd goal in the 90th minute only to have Orage County’s Michael Seaton respond with his own fantastic shot in the 91st minute to make the final score 6-2.
in the 90th minute The Monarchs now move on to the semifinals next week against the winner of the Phoenix Rising vs. Austin Bold match later tonight.