Amani Walker returned home, in a sense, in 2015.
Ok, so he's from San Diego, but Walker returned to Southern California with the Orange County Blues this year after four years in NASL with Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Walker was the kind of signing indicative of the Blues' new direction: A roster that would fit within USL, certainly, but one that was looking for more experience and pedigree to turn around the team after a poor 2014 season.
Walker played collegiately at UC Irvine, and though he's just 25 he seems like he has more experience than that. The striker, coming to the Blues, looked set to be a fixture in the lineup.
Well...maybe not so much. I think it's a testament to the forward depth and the way that Oliver Wyss lined up his team and rotated his strikers that Walker's time on the field was pretty limited overall, as he came off the bench in all of his league appearances, and only started one game, arguably the worst of the season for OC, the Open Cup loss to PSA Elite.
That's not to dump that result or anything in Walker's lap. He did score a goal this season, back in April to ice a win over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. But given the fact that he played a total of 240 minutes for the season across all competitions, he was very much a bench option for Wyss.
Here are Walker's statistics from the 2015 season:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|USL Regular Season||12||0||150||1||0||7||5||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||1||90||0||0||2||0||0||0|
Christofer Ramirez and Chris Cortez were clearly ahead of Walker on the depth chart, and although he played a slightly different position, David Estrada's late season addition pushed Walker down even further. All in all, Walker's impact appeared to come more often during the early part of the season, and by the time the team was clicking in the final couple months, he was not really featuring.
So what this means for his future with the club is anyone's guess. Walker did score in very limited minutes, and he's got the local ties and pro soccer experience to help the club overall. Plus, having guys like him around to push the established starters is a good way to keep everyone at their best, and probably accounts for the success, at least in part, that the Blues saw in 2015.
But it probably can't be considered a rousing success of a season, either, for the player. Good to get a pro with the intangibles, but unknown if this is just the beginning with Orange County, or if he'll be moving on for next year.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!