As we close in on the beginning of 2016 USL season, it’s time to prognosticate. The Orange County Blues kick off their season Saturday night at 7 pm PT at UC Irvine’s Anteater Stadium against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, a.k.a. the ThunderCaps. Is this the start of a magical season for Orange County? Let’s get to some bold predictions.
- Trevin Caesar will score more than 10 goals in 2016. Believe it or not, the Blues haven’t had a double-digit scorer in three years, dating back to Matt Fondy’s 10-goal 2013 season, which undoubtedly helped him move to Chivas USA and MLS. Even last season, the Blues’ best-ever season, they didn’t have a main goal scorer. Four players scored between six and eight goals. Three out of those four (Chris Cortez, Christofer Ramirez, and Denzel Slager) are not returning. With that being the case, look for newcomer Caesar to have a breakout year. He’s a dominant player on the right wing, and I can easily see Didier Crettenand linking up with him well for a number of goals. A double-digit number, in fact.
- Brandon Miller has another fantastic season in goal, and moves to MLS. It really doesn’t get much bolder than this. It’s almost impossible to predict whether a player moves up, but I have a strong feeling that if Miller has another standout season that is anywhere close to his Goalkeeper of the Year season in Rochester in 2015, an MLS team will take notice, and pull him up. One amazing season can be considered an anomaly. Some could claim that Rochester’s backline is more responsible for Miller’s performance. Two amazing seasons, and that’s a pattern. If Miller commands a different backline this season on a different team and still puts up good numbers, his true talent will be evident.
- The Orange County Blues will win their first ever playoff game. In the sixth season of the club’s existence, all the hard work over the years pays off with a playoff victory. I can’t say whether it’ll be only one, or that they’ll win the USL Championship, but I can say this: The Blues have a great core of players from last season that are hungry to go farther in September/October. Add in exciting new players, some of which we don’t even know about yet, and the sky's the limit. It’ll be a competitive Western Conference in 2016, and no one should be taken by surprise anymore when Orange County plays well, but I believe we are about to witness something magical this season.
What do you think? Are we dead on, or completely off-base? Let us know in the comments!