This week, the Orange County Blues conclude their season series against Arizona United SC. The Blues have only won one of the three games so far this season against AZ United, and given the tight spot they find themselves in for the Western Conference playoff chase, every game is crucial at this point.
In order to get ready for Saturday's game, we welcome Arizona-based writer Kyle Kepner to answer some questions about the local team. Kyle works for Reckless Challenge and Indomitable City Soccer and knows Arizona United and USL overall very well. Thanks to Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Kyle Kepner:
1. Arizona United have had a pretty disappointing season so far, but they've played the Blues pretty well this season, with two wins in three. Do they just match up well against OC, or is there a bigger reason for the good showings against the Blues and poor performances in so many other games?
Arizona's struggles this season have occurred primarily in the middle of the park and at the back. Consequently, they have generated relatively few meaningful buildups on offense, and have conceded more goals than any other team. That said, United's best games, including the two wins over the Blues, have had one thing in common: Milton Blanco starting in midfield. By now, Blues fans are familiar with the physicality and stability that he brings in front of the defense, and that always seems to be useful against OC. United has continued to struggle in this part of the field, and if they have to face Blanco on Saturday, then Chris Cortez and Didier Crettenand may find themselves with room to run.
2. So given Arizona's place in the standings, is the feeling around the team that the playoffs are pretty much out of the picture this year, or do they believe a hot run is possible, with a playoff appearance at the end of it?
There are those in the fan base who have long since mailed it in, but the club seems more optimistic. They have made some signings down the stretch, such as former Blues defender Romeo Filipovic, and the staff remembers well that a hot streak at the end of last season put the club within one game of the playoffs. For all the criticism he's had to absorb, Coach Dellorusso isn't a quitter, and the competitor in me is rooting for that turnaround that was so satisfying a year ago.
3. Who would you consider the best player on United this season, and why?
United's best player this season has to be Carl Woszczynski. If someone didn't know the story of this season's defensive woes, they would look at the number of goals against and wonder how I could make this pick. But Woz has played smart and is very dependable. As a shot stopper he has kept United in games they were trying hard to lose. After going up 2-0 early in the season opener at OC, Woz made something like eight saves, several of them in acrobatic fashion. He's a veteran and a leader, and other than one game in which he was nursing a knock, he's played in every game this year. Easy call.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for Saturday's match?
United 2-1 OCB.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!