The Santana brothers remained with the Orange County Blues this season, but their fates diverged quite a bit in their second season on the team.
In contrast to 2014, when older brother Jiovanni played roughly three times the minutes of brother Christopher, 2015 represented a total reversal, with Christopher playing 10 times the minutes of Jio. It is the older brother that we focus on for this article.
Jio was a pretty effective contributor his first season with the Blues, notching a few goals and getting plenty of run from an attacking midfield position.
But under Oliver Wyss, a slew of players joined the team who played his position, and that pushed him down the depth chart pretty quickly. Didier Crettenand was an automatic start pretty much whenever he was healthy, and the midseason additions of Milton Blanco and David Estrada, who although not exactly attacking midfielders still filled that space on the field, made it difficult for Jio Santana to break through.
Here are Santana's statistics from 2015:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|USL Regular Season||6||2||159||0||0||4||1||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Couple the much stiffer competition with the perception Santana was never quite fully fit in 2015, and his limited time on the field makes him more of a symbol about the roster reconstruction of the Blues than anything else. One of 10 players from the 2014 roster to see time this year, only the injured Mehrshad Momeni saw as little action as Jio. Maybe Santana had an off year due to injury, or maybe he didn't really catch Wyss' eye and didn't get much of a chance, but over the second half of the season he basically didn't even register, not making the 18 for most games.
So again, the mystery is whether Jio can get healthy and get another crack at being part of the core squad next year, or if his time with Orange County is effectively over. It seems pretty likely that his brother would be welcomed back, and as with USL in general, it can be hard to really predict which players stay and which go, especially with day-to-day information so hard to come by, but it seems less likely Jio would be back with the team, at least based on his limited time on the field in 2015. He was certainly part of a successful team, but will the 25-year-old be able to break through again on Wyss' team with another chance? That part is far from certain at this point.
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