On Friday, we took full stock of the offseason so far, running the rule over the roster moves the Orange County Blues have made or could make so far this preseason. Now, here are the questions we have going into 2016 for OC.
Who's going to fill in for the major scoring departures? It's not necessarily the number of departures from the team that has us worried. After all, in USL, players come in and out every year, and a majority of them are usually signed to one-year contracts, some with a team option for a second year. What's concerning is that 27 of the team's 38 goals last season were scored by four players who are definitely not or probably not coming back. Denzel Slager (six goals) and Christofer Ramirez (eight) are confirmed gone, Chris Cortez (six) is on trial with another Western Conference team, and the jury is still out on Didier Crettenand (seven). That's a big chunk of attack that Blues head coach and GM Oliver Wyss has to replace in 2016.
Right now, it appears as if that task will fall on newcomer Trevin Caesar and returnees Pavle Popara and Chino Santana. Which leads us to our next question...
Will Chino Santana finally have the full breakout season we've been waiting for? We've seen flashes of brilliance from the former UC Irvine player in the last two seasons, but it doesn't feel like we've gotten everything Santana is capable of. Either dogged by an injury, a victim of the depth chart, or just not the number one scoring option, we've yet to see him make that leap forward. Hopefully in 2016, given the right conditions and little bit of luck, health-wise, we could see Santana have an All-League worthy season.
And this leads us to probably the biggest question of all heading into the season...
How will the Blues defend their regular season Western Conference title? With four additional teams, three of which are brand new, the West will be ultra-competitive in 2016. Add in the fact that there are six MLS-owned clubs in the conference, and repeating will be no small task. And that's not even thinking about the other goal, advancing in the USL Playoffs and winning the Championship, which Wyss has constantly stated is the overall goal of the club every season.
It certainly looks like the 2016 season will be a fun one to watch. What are your thoughts on the Blues offseason, and the squad heading into the regular season? Let us know in the comments below!