Gameday is here! The USL playoffs come to Southern California as top-seeded Orange County Blues take on LA Galaxy II at the StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium (7:30 pm PT). Though OC earned the right to host the game, some off-field issues conspired to ultimately hand the game to the Galaxy II, so the 405 Derby will be a little different than most editions. Of course, it's the playoffs, so the local rivalry will be ramped up regardless, since the winner of this game moves on to the Western Conference finals.
By virtue of their finish on top of the West, the Blues had a bye last week for the first round of the playoffs, and have therefore been off for nearly two weeks. It will be interesting to see if the extra time will help mend some of the injured players, notably midfielder Didier Crettenand, whose influence on the team has waned in the late part of the season as injuries have taken a toll, but who remains a significant presence on the field when he is playing. You have to figure if he's healthy enough to play, he'll feature, and that should help the Blues' chances of winning this game.
On the other hand, having that rest could leave OC a bit rusty, while LA have remained in their rhythm, and have the confidence of coming off not only a win but a revenge win over the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, Sacramento. That they're playing a team they've beaten in six tries out of eight and playing a surprise playoff game at home means they are the favored side for this game.
But that doesn't mean the Blues don't have a shot in this match. They finally broke their duck against the Galaxy II in the teams' last meeting last month and have quietly put together their best-ever season. They've fully bought into head coach Oliver Wyss' system and have the confidence they can win the championship. And with the season's performance behind them, they'll believe they can finally win a playoff game, too. It's going to be a fascinating game, to see which SoCal team has bragging rights for the season.
Tale of the Tape:
OC Blues: 1st place finish in Western Conference, first-round bye, first game of 2015 USL playoffs
LA Galaxy II: 5th place finish in Western Conference; 1-0-0 (1-0 win over Sacramento Republic FC); Goal Difference: 1
How to Watch OC Blues-LA Galaxy II: Kick off is at 7:30 pm PT. You can buy tickets at the gate or watch the stream on YouTube. The stream is embedded below for your convenience.
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