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Orange County Blues 2015 Player Postmortem: Didier Crettenand

The captain helped the team with his presence -- and paradoxically, also his absence.

The smooth Crettenand in action.
The smooth Crettenand in action.
Liza Rosales/OC Blues FC

In a season with a lot of successful signings for the Orange County Blues, Didier Crettenand was the best of the lot.

The team, rebuilding after a dreadful 2014 campaign, added the Swiss midfielder during the preseason, and in the early weeks of the season, he more or less carried the club as they got acclimated to each other and started the season strong. He then suffered an injury, and the team slumped without him for some time.

In those early months of the season, before his first injury, Crettenand was a USL MVP candidate, he was so dominant. Made captain by Blues coach and compatriot Oliver Wyss, Crettenand showed his class in a number of ways, scoring, setting up teammates from the run of play or on set pieces, and helping to shut down opponents defensively. He was a revelation.

Here were Crettenand's statistics with the Blues in 2015:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
USL Regular Season 23 21 1,637 7 3 41 21 1 0
USL Playoffs 1 0 36 0 0 1 1 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 24 21 1,673 7 3 42 22 1 0

As I mentioned, after he went down with an injury, the Blues struggled without him, and his absence certainly was felt. But something curious happened. Wyss made some changes to the Blues' tactics, and when Crettenand experienced another injury towards the end of the season, the squad covered over his absence much better, to the point that he was hardly missed as they raced to a first-place finish in the Western Conference.

Ranking second on the team in scoring, despite playing midfield, Crettenand had one moment that has to be bitter from the season, when his penalty kick was saved in OC's playoff game against the LA Galaxy II. The Blues were already down 2-0 at that point, and so a PK wouldn't have overturned the deficit, but his tame effort was saved and the Blues could not take advantage of the opportunity and try to really make a go of a comeback. Crettenand was coming off injury in that game, and only came off the bench, so maybe he just rushed it and it didn't work out.

But a saved penalty does not a season make. I think it's a good thing that the Blues grew to be far less reliant on Crettenand as the season wore on, as a sign of their depth and strength as a collective. But make no mistake -- Crettenand is a very good player and will bring a more complete game to his team than nearly anybody in USL. He still has the tools to be an MVP-caliber player, if only he can stay healthy all season.

It seems pretty likely Crettenand will be back with Orange County in 2016, although it has not been officially announced yet. The 29-year-old is arguably more talented than his current station, but hopefully that means he'll be absolutely dominant. I think if things come together, Wyss upgrades the roster in a few spots and Crettenand stays healthy and focused, the Blues could be a real force in the USL in 2016. And that's got to be a very exciting prospect indeed.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!