The newly rebranded Orange County SC started the 2017 USL with a bang signing a new affiliation agreement with Los Angeles FC and moving to a new soccer specific home stadium in Orange County Great Park on parts of the old El Toro MCAS in Irvine, California. However, due to issues with completion of the new stadium, the match with Real Monarchs SLC will be only their second home match of the USL season.
Orange County has played only 7 matches this season and sport a 3-3-1 record. The light schedule has allowed for plenty of time between matches and given new Head Coach Logan Pause plenty of time to shape his squad and prepare for their six road matches. Their home opener on May 6th against LA Galaxy II was a 4-0 blowout and their best effort of the season. Orange County also managed two early wins on the road against Reno 1868 FC and Portland Timbers 2 and a victory in US Open Cup last last Wednesday night.
Orange County scoring has been lead by Jerry van Ewijk and Duke Lacroix with three and two goals respectively. However, despite a strong midfield coordinated by Carlos Alvarez goals have been hard to find on the road and only Victor Pineda and Wuilito Fernandes have scored beyond the two leaders to push the teams direct total to 7 on the season. They have also benefited from two own goals.
Charlie Lyon, their star goalie and Salomon Wbais, a centerback, have played every minute of the season and anchor the center of the Orange County defense. Oscar Sorto, a regular starter at right back, was shown the red card last match and will be ineligible for Saturday’s match which may prove large as the Monarchs love to attack on their left side.
Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Velasquez continue to lead the Monarchs with 6 goals apiece. Nick Besler, James Moberg, Daniel Haber, and RSL loanee Jose Hernandez all have multiple goals as well. In all, ten players have contributed to their league leading 27 goals.
Charlie Adams leads USL with 76 crosses and he and Andrew Brody remain among the league leaders in assists and chance creation. James Moberg, Max Lachowecki, Nick Besler continue to play ever minute and have solidified the Monarchs defense which tended to leak goals in the early season.
The Monarchs have a 1-4-0 record in their five previous matches with Orange County. Their sole victory came last year at Rio Tinto when the Monarchs score 3 of the 4 goals they have recorded against Orange County. Both of the previous meetings in Irvine were 1-0 defeats that featured an single goal by the home team and then tight defense on the part of Orange County.
What to watch for
Orange County handily defeated the Monarchs 3-1 in the final preseason match this spring with Kyle Curinga being shown a straight red in the 75’. Two of the three goals for Orange County came off bad defensive giveaways. Ball handling, especially on the defensive side, will be key for both sides
Coming off their Open Cup victory on Wednesday at Azuza Pacific University which won them a match against the Galaxy at Stub Hub, Orange County might choose to rest some players and test the depth of the team. While their defense on the road has not been good allowing both Tulsa FC and Sacramento Republic to score 4 against them their sole home game was a shutout.
With the return of Gallagher from suspension, the Monarchs will be back to full strength with the exception of Orosco and Kyle Curringa who has received a two game suspension for dangerous play following a foot to the groin area in the Vancouver match. Look for player of the month nominee Sebastian Velasquez, Daniel Haber and other Monarchs to test the right side of the Orange County defense early with the suspension of Oscar Sorto. Charlie Lyon has been great in goal for Orange County but the high scoring Monarchs will be out to push play and seek the early goal.
Perhaps even more important, is how the Monarchs handle any lead that they might manage to construct. Last week an invigorated Whitecaps 2 team managed to surprise the Monarchs when they came back in the second half to scoring a goal against a sputtering defense and fight to the end.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Gallagher, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Brody, Velasquez, Haber; Hoffman
Orange County FC: (4-2-3-1): Lyon; Ocegueda, Navarro, Wbias, Franco; Chaplow, Pineda; Etim, Alvarez, van Ewijk; Fernandes
When: Saturday, June 4, 6:00pm MDT
Where: Orange County Great Park — Irvine, California
Weather: 76 degrees, Sunny