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2017 USL Preview: Orange County SC

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 03/15/17, 6:27PM EDT

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New era begins with high hopes after postseason berth a season ago

Entering its first offseason under the leadership of new Owner James Keston, Orange County SC underwent a facelift on and off the field, but after earning postseason berths in each of the past two seasons the club will hope its on-field success continues as it enters a new era. With Oliver Wyss still part of the Technical Staff alongside new Head Coach Logan Pause, and a partnership with 2018 MLS expansion club Los Angeles FC in place, there is definite room for optimism despite some notable offseason departures.

Head Coach: Logan Pause
Stadium: Orange County Great Park
2016 results: 12-14-4, 40pts
2016 postseason: D 0-0 (5-4 PKs) at Sacramento Republic FC; L 2-1 (OT) at Swope Park Rangers 

Goalkeeper: Orange County saw both Josh Cohen (Phoenix Rising FC) and Brandon Miller (Harrisburg City Islanders) depart this offseason, but found a solid addition in Charlie Lyon, who will likely be the starter after recording 17 appearances for Seattle Sounders FC 2 a season ago. His competition will come from rookie Casey Beyers, who arrives after competing for the University of Wisconsin.

Defense: Orange County added some intriguing young talent to its back line, including former LA Galaxy II fullbacks Oscar Sorto and Joe Franco, both of whom were part of the Los Dos side that reached the 2015 USL Cup Final. Beto Navarro returns after a stint with Miami FC to bring experience to the center of defense, while Roy Meeus had a productive first season with the club last year. The acquisition of U.S. Youth international Juan Pablo Ocegueda and Mexican youth international Salomon Wbias also offers high upside for the two youngsters.

Midfield: The addition of former Chicago Fire Homegrown signing Victor Pineda this offseason reunites the former U.S. U23 international with OC Head Coach Logan Pause, a longtime part of the Fire. His addition to the returning Richard Chaplow should provide Orange County with a creative spark from the center of the field. Gustavo Villalobos also joined the club from Tulsa Roughnecks FC, while Dusan Stevanovic returns for his second season in Orange County after scoring one goal in 13 appearances a season ago.

Forward: Orange County saw leading scorer Trevin Caesar head north to join Sacramento Republic FC, but the club could have pulled off a sharp signing with the addition of former Indy Eleven forward Duke Lacroix, who recorded four goals and three assists over the past two seasons. Also joining the side is Dutch forward Jerry Van Ewijk, who has scored more than 30 goals in his career in his homeland.


Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Strengths: The organizational structure put in place by James Keston and partnership with Los Angeles FC will be a major boon for Orange County’s soccer community, while the pedigree of many of the club’s new additions should allow for a positive transition on the field under the stewardship of Logan Pause. After back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in the club’s history, a new era of stability and success could be just around the corner.

Weaknesses: With the departure of Trevin Caesar, the biggest key for Orange County will be to find a consistent scoring threat that can carry the side forward this season. Another key will be to string results together in a more consistent manner. At times in the 2016 season, it could be a guessing game as to which Orange County side would show up on any given day. Only twice in the regular season did the side win multiple games in a row, with one three-game winning streak and one two-game streak, which meant a desperate final-day surge was required to ensure a postseason berth.

Key number: 299 – New Orange County Head Coach Logan Pause made 299 appearances in the MLS regular season and playoffs for the Chicago Fire in his career, and now enters his first head coaching position looking to draw on his experience as a player to lead his new club to success.

Noteworthy matchups: The I-405 Derby between Orange County and the LA Galaxy II gets a home-and-home set to kick off its renewal this season with OC traveling to StubHub Center on April 22 before returning to Orange County Great Park for its home opener on May 6 in its next outing. A late-season home clash with Sacramento Republic FC on October 4 could also be a key game for both sides in the push for the playoffs.

Coach’s view: “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and confidence Mr. Keston and Oliver [Wyss] have given me. This is a once-in-a-lifetime project and a perfect fit for me and my family.” Orange County SC Head Coach Logan Pause

Current roster (updated: March 15, 2017):
Goalkeepers:
Casey Beyers, Charlie Lyon
Defenders: Roy Meeus, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Salomon Wbias, Sola Aboliti, Oscar Sorto, Joe Franco, Beto Navarro
Midfielders: Dusan Stevanovic, Richard Chaplow, Gustavo Villalobos, Kevin Jeon, Victor Pineda, Amirgy Pineda
Forwards: Jerry Van Ewijk, Duke Lacroix

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