From the outside, the Orange County Blues have reached their goal, returning to the USL playoffs, with three games to spare. But within the team, the job is not yet complete.
On Saturday, the Blues clinched a playoff berth and made history in finally beating local rival LA Galaxy II at the eighth attempt, with a dramatic 90th minute tally from substitute and leading scorer Christofer Ramirez. Naturally, following the game spirits were high, but with the assurance of at least one more game to tack on the regular season slate, the sense is that there's much to play for still.
"For us, our goal is to win the Western Conference," OC coach Oliver Wyss told The Goat Parade following the game. "And for that to happen, we need to beat the LA Galaxy at our home field. [Beating LA is] nice that it's history, but history is only as good as the last game of the season. We want to win the USL Championship, and we want to win the Western Conference. Right now we are a team that believe we can do that."
Though the Blues are sitting in fourth place at the moment, they are only one point behind the first place team, OKC Energy FC, and very well could still grab that top spot in the West if they get results and the teams ahead of them help them out.
Given the run Orange County are on at the moment, it seems like the team, who at one point in July had tumbled well below the "red line" in the conference standings, are almost playing playoff soccer now. But Wyss said it was less a question of playing at playoff intensity and more trying to fulfill the goal of winning a title.
"When the goal is to be the best, we want to [treat] every game, every training session like it's the last game we're playing. I think we have a very high intensity, we have a big belief, but most importantly we have an unbelievable unit that believes in each other and it shows on the field. We do not quit.
"...But that started a long time ago, when we set the goal at the beginning of the season."
Despite the focus on seeing the season out, Wyss did admit he would let the team enjoy the landmark win over the Galaxy before turning to the next game against Seattle.
"We want to enjoy this one. It's a special night."
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