Another team that was rebranded this season, Orange County is currently sitting just out of the playoffs in 9th place with 36 points. With three of their final five matches are on the road, and the two home matches against Sacramento Republic FC and Reno 1868 FC, they are looking to score points in every match.
In somewhat of an anomaly for a team lower in the standings, Orange County has a reasonable road record at 4-4-5, especially when compared with their home record of 5-5-4. Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park, their new home field this season, did not open until during the summer so Orange County are coming off a preponderance over the past couple of months. Their record over the past matches overall is 2-2-1, but the two losses were to San Antonio and Reno 1868 FC which sit right behind the Monarchs in the standings.
Offensively Orange County are lead by Jerry van Ewijk, a Dutch midfielder who just came to the US this season, and Irvin Parra, another midfielder by trade who spent the past two USL seasons with Seattle Sounders 2 FC, with seven goals. Parra, who has been utilized in the number 9 role by coach Logan Pause this season, and has proven very effective at distribution of the ball much as Luis Silva has done for RSL. Zach Kobayashi, who has seen move time on the field due to the Parra move, is a recent contributor with four goals in limited appearances.
OC have a veteran defense anchored by team captain Charlie Lyon, the former Seattle Sounder, in goal and Joe Franco, over from the LA Galaxy II, who will have the job of slowing the left side of the Monarchs attack. Walker Hume, a former North Carolina centerback who was tentatively linked with RSL in the 2017 MLS Superdraft, has come to Orange County on loan from FC Dallas and won a starting role in the past few matches.
The Monarchs enter this match winless in their last three matches and searching for some offensive rhythm for the upcoming road trip and the playoffs. Recent signings Danny Cruz, Juan Ignacio Mare and Diego Calvo need to find connections with their new teammates and provide some offensive firepower in shot and goals. Nick Besler and Connor Sparrow, who recently signed with RSL, will continue seeing most of their playing time with the Monarchs along with Jose Hernandez, Reagan Dunk and Justin Schmidt.
Chandler Hoffman, the focus of a great article on USLSoccer.com this week, remains firmly in the USL MVP race, remains at 14 goals which equals his previous high for a USL season and is 2 goals behind Dane Kelly and former RSL man, Enzo Martinez, in the race for the USL Golden Boot. Charlie Adams and Hoffman each have 7 assists is just three behind Chis Wehan of Reno for the USL lead and closely followed by Sebastian Valesquez who has 6.
This will be the seventh match between the Monarchs and And Orange County in their various incarnations. The overall series stands at 2-4-0 with OC always being a tough team for the Monarchs. This is their third match this year. The first took place in during the California stretch of preseason where Orange County SC scoring three goals and won easily. Their earlier regular season contest in Irvine saw Orange County come close to salvaging a point against the league leaders, but a Chandler Hoffman goal in the first minute of play off across by Charlie Adams stood up for a 1-0 victory. This match also saw Connor Sparrow come through with one of his four saves on penalty kicks this season in first half stoppage time against Jerry van Ewijk.
What to watch for
The Monarchs desperately need to reestablish some offensive rhythm and find their lost offensive mojo. Their last match in Scottsdale resulted in a single shot on goal and left them apparently dominated by their opponents. Health should not be an issue among any of the regular starters meaning there should be a quality first class lineup and 18-man squad named. With it being very likely that, baring injury, any substitutes will be on the offensive side to continue the integration of their new players, the Monarchs need to put not only shots, but shots on goal, up in numbers while putting forth a full 90 minute effort on both sides of the ball.
Much like the current RSL squad, Orange County thrives on possession and passing from a converted midfielder at forward and a strong deep midfield lineup. This game will be won in the midfield and through high quality possession. Look for a number of short passes early to get players into the match and patience on the ball especially if the Monarchs manage to take the lead. Orange County has not proven very adept at fighting from behind, especially on the road, so an early goal would be a great sign for the Monarchs.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Haber, Velasquez, Brody; Hoffman
Orange County SC: (4-2-3-1): Lyon; Franco, Sorto, Hume, Ocegueda; Olijve, Chaplow; van Ewijk, Alvarez, Pacheco; Parra
When: Friday, September 22, 7:00 pm MDT
Where: Rio Tinto — Sandy, UT
Weather: 53 degrees, Mostly Cloudy