The Orange County Blues' sixth season as a professional team ended on Sunday, with a 2-1 extra time loss in the USL Cup Playoffs against Swope Park Rangers. It was a tough result, to be sure, but it's time to begin looking back on the season that was for the Blues.
First, let's take the long view. I'm talking history. Ok, six years is not a long time in most sports, but you have to start somewhere, and with the information we have, we can handily do a snapshot comparison of Blues seasons over the years.
It's hard to definitively say where this season ranks in the pantheon on an objective level, primarily because of the vast changes since 2011 to USL. With massive expansion the past two years, and with the format of the league from a single table format to now a two-conference alignment -- with the respective conferences each having more teams than the single table league used to -- it's tough to find a baseline to compare year to year, aside from record and playoff performance.
So having said all of that, there is a case to be made that the 2016 season was the team's second-best to date.
First, here's the comparison of Los Angeles/Orange County Blues seasons:
|2011||8-7-9||3rd, National Div.||First round (Div. semifinal)|
|2012||9-12-3||8th (Single Table)||Did not qualify|
|2013||11-8-7||6th (Single Table)||First round (quarterfinals)|
|2014||9-18-1||13th (Single Table)||Did not qualify|
|2015||14-9-5||1st, Western Conf.||Conference semifinal|
|2016||12-14-4||8th, Western Conf.||Conference semifinal|
If we take the 2015 season as the best, as the team finished the regular season atop the Western Conference and got a bye in what was the playoff format that season, then this year competes with 2013 for second-best.
The 2013 win percentage in the regular season is about 42 percent, compared to 40 percent this year. So the edge would go to the 2013 edition.
The 2013 Blues finished 6th out of 13 teams total -- if we were to combine the 2016 regular season table, the Blues would finish in 15th place out of 29 teams. It's not a perfect comparison, since the 2016 side didn't play a single Eastern Conference team, but this year's side ranks a bit higher in the combined league table.
And then there's the main reason why 2016 beats 2013 -- the Blues won a playoff game this year. Perhaps if they had made the conference final or league final, a case might have been made for this year to be better even than 2015. Is it fair that one win beats a full regular season's performance? Maybe, maybe not, but the name of the game in American sports is the playoffs, and winning a postseason game, especially for the first time ever, is a really big deal.
We'll have more analysis of the Blues season coming up. In the meantime, what do you think? Where does OC's 2016 season rank in their history?