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LAFC’s partnership with OC Blues “tighter connection” than other MLS-USL deals

MLS side envisions close collaboration with USL team.

Thorrington (right) with LAFC, Blues executives.
Courtesy of OC Blues FC.

We may not see how the recently-announced partnership between MLS expansion team Los Angeles Football Club and USL team Orange County Blues will work fully for some time, but those wondering how the teams will approach the arrangement comes some insight from LAFC’s John Thorrington.

Thorrington, the MLS side’s executive vice president of soccer operations, spoke to Angels on Parade at the MLS SuperDraft last week about the philosophy behind the partnership with Orange County, who will be rebranding before the upcoming USL season.

When asked if LAFC was using Atlanta United as a guide for launching a USL partnership before the MLS team begins play, Thorrington wasn’t altogether ready to compare himself to the 2017 expansion side’s arrangement in 2016 with the Charleston Battery.

“I can’t speak to the specifics of their relationship, but I can say one huge advantage of this is that [the Blues] are in our market,” he said. “So that myself and our staff as it grows can be keeping daily tabs on our players. And it’s a very close collaboration with myself and their GM, Oliver [Wyss], their owner James [Keston].

“So I don’t know about the nature of Atlanta’s relationship but in terms of it serving of us preparing players for MLS, in our own market with close collaboration, and everything on the technical side is, from what I know of previous affiliations, it’s a tighter connection in terms of the decision-making process, the team-building, the player recruitment identification, all of that, it’s a collaborative decision-making process.”

If nothing else, LAFC’s thinking on the matter regarding their USL partnership demonstrates the evolution in the affiliate agreements between the two leagues, to days where teams partnered with far-flung USL sides.

“What we wanted to avoid was a situation where we are signing players and sending them somewhere across the country and hoping they develop and checking in with them in a year,” Thorrington explained.

LAFC was also in consultation in Orange County hiring Logan Pause as their new head coach. Pause was teammates with Thorrington at the Chicago Fire from 2005-10, and the LAFC executive praised his former teammate’s ability in taking on the new role.

“We were very adamant that we wanted the right environment, the right person developing these players, to put them in a position to help them play for our team, and we think we have that with Orange County and with Logan.”

Of course, we’ll see how it all shakes out, but it does appear promising that LAFC is taking an active role and seeking to get the most out of their USL affiliation.

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