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Examining the current state of the Orange County Blues' roster

OC Blues FC

Editor's Note: We welcome Jake Schwartz to The Goat Parade's staff. Jake has recent experience working in USL and will be contributing articles, including this one, on the league and the club we cover here on the site, the Orange County Blues. Please welcome Jake to the team!

With about a month until the beginning of the 2016 USL season and about half of preseason left to go, we've decided to take a look at the Orange County Blues offseason as a whole (even though it's technically ongoing). Here you'll find updates on the players from last season and the new additions. We'll start with the official announced returnees:

Returnees

These are the players that have been officially announced by the team as returning for 2016.

  • Chino Santana: The younger Santana brother was the first to be announced as returning. He provided two goals and five assists in 2015.

  • Nikola Ilich: The left-footed midfielder returns after a promising 2015. He became one of head coach Oliver Wyss' workhorses, appearing in 27 of 28 regular season games.

  • Tyler Feeley: Another young player with lots of potential comes back to Irvine. Hopefully with more playing opportunities, Feeley can continue his growth into a standout striker/winger.

  • Ryan Felix: Felix was signed mid-way through the 2015 season, and had an instant impact at center-back and holding midfielder. Watch out for him in 2016 with a full preseason with the Blues.

  • Pavle Popara: Another mid-season signing in 2015, Popara returns for his first full season with the club. In just half a season, he scored three goals and notched three assists, so look for him to be a big playmaker in 2016.

  • Brenton Griffiths: The standout center-back returns for 2016 coming off a USL All-League 2nd team season in 2015. Another season like that, and hopefully we see Griffiths return to MLS.

  • Jack McCracken: The rookie from Loyola Marymount University instantly earned the starting job at right-back, and held it for a good chunk of 2015. Barring injury, expect McCracken to continue to be the defensive anchor on the right side in 2016.

  • Josh Cohen: A mid-season signing, Cohen made one appearance in 2015, at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, only giving up one goal and making a spectacular palm save late in the match. Expect him to be the backup in 2016.

New Signings

These are the new signings officially announced by the team.

  • Brandon Miller: Signing Miller is by far one of the best offseason moves Wyss has made. The reigning USL Goalkeeper of the Year will surely be first-string. In 2015 for the USL champion Rochester Rhinos, Miller only gave up 11 goals in 21 regular season appearances.

  • Trevin Caesar: Scoring nine goals on an Austin Aztex team where Kris Tyrpak, a former Chivas USA player and a standout in USL, also scored nine goals, is a fantastic accomplishment. Look for Caesar to take on some of the Blues' scoring load in 2016.

  • Christian Silva: Another signing from the USL champion Rochester Rhinos, Silva had an injury-shortened season in 2015. Not a whole lot is known about him, so we're curious to see how he progresses in 2016. Read the intel on him from Brendan Doherty of The Bent Musket.

Departures

Ok, now the real fun begins. Where has the rest of the 2015 Blues team gone? We'll split this up into confirmed and unknown.

Confirmed
  • Christofer Ramirez - Atletico Marte: The Blues' leading scorer in 2015 has returned to his parent club, and it appears he's under contract for three years.

  • Chris Cortez - Arizona United SC: The longtime Blue and hometown kid is at the very least, on trial in Arizona. He scored twice in their preseason victory over FC Tucson on Wednesday. Hard to see United not signing the forward if they haven't already after that performance.

  • Denzel Slager - LA Galaxy II: One of the most exciting players to watch in 2015 has moved on to Curt Onalfo's squad.

  • Josh Suggs - Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: This is a big loss. A stalwart at left-back and known to charge up on the wing, Suggs signed with the Switchbacks for 2016.

  • David Estrada - Charlotte Independence: A late-season signing in 2015, Estrada brought a new energy to the Blues as an attacking midfielder/winger. He'll be pairing up with another former Blues forward, Alex Martinez, in Charlotte in 2016.

  • Jimmy Turner - Wilmington Hammerheads FC:  Another longtime Blue and hometown kid, Turner has moved across the country, and appears at the moment to be on trial with the Hammerheads (That's him in the hooded sweatshirt). Whether he's signed or not is still to be determined, but it doesn't seem likely that he'll be back in OC.

  • Pepe Miranda - FC Ararat: Based off this Instagram post from him, Miranda looks to be playing for an Armenian team at the moment.

  • Billy Thompson - Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: The penalty save specialist has signed with Colorado Springs, joining up with Suggs.

  • Aaron Perez - Minnesota United FC: After not appearing at all in 2016, moving up to an NASL team is a huge step for Perez, who signed with the ‘Loons.

  • Beto Navarro - Jacksonville Armada: Griffiths' partner at center-back for a majority of 2015 moved up to NASL as well, signing with the Armada, where he joins former Blues and Chivas USA forward Matthew Fondy.

Unknowns
  • Didier Crettenand: No news on the 2016 plans of one of the Blues' standout players from last season. There's no indication either way yet of whether he'll be back.

  • Luka Petricevic: Another key player in 2015, with no news on his next step.

  • Amani Walker: Whether his ACL will let him play again after surgery is to be determined.

  • Seung Ju Kim: The young player had a few shining moments in 2015, but couldn't remain a consistent player in the lineup. No news on his 2016 plans, but wouldn't be surprised if he ended up back in South Korea, given his potential for more call-ups to the national team.

  • Jio Santana: The older Santana dealt with injuries and limited opportunities in 2015. Hard to see him returning, especially if the club didn't announce him along with his brother.

  • Jefrey Payeras: The local defender was on loan from C.S.D. Municipal in Guatemala for the 2015 season, so there's the possibility of him returning there. He could also potentially sign for LA Galaxy II. Nothing official there, but he's a former member of their academy and has a lot of friends in the organization. Doesn't seem likely that he'll return to OC, but anything's possible.

  • Jacob Barron: The former Chivas U-23 member had a somewhat consistent season in 2015, mostly coming off the bench. No word on his plans for 2016, but I'd say there's a good possibility he'll be back in OC, given that Wyss had him in the fold pretty much throughout last season when he was healthy and available.

  • Milton Blanco: A mid-season signing from Arizona United, Blanco played well during his stint in OC. Unfortunately, there's no indication of his return to the club or any other plans for 2016.

  • Nikola Paunic: The center-back didn't get much of an opportunity to play after he was signed mid-season, and didn't have much of an impact in the four matches he appeared in. Unlikely that he returns for 2016.

Tomorrow, I'll ask some of the big questions for the Blues heading into the 2016 season. For now, what do you think? Leave a comment below!