Orange County SC officially enter the offseason this week, as the USL regular season has ended. So to kick off the review of the season that was, let’s put the 2017 season for Orange County SC into perspective with club history.
First off, let’s remind everyone of the history of the team. Orange County SC have been playing in USL since 2011, and while this is their first year under the current name, it’s the third name they’ve played under in seven seasons, following the original name of Los Angeles Blues, and then Orange County Blues.
Ok, so in the seventh season, how can we rank it compared to the six that came before?
USL Playoffs/Regular Season
Right off the bat, 2017 won’t go down as Orange County’s best ever because they did not make the playoffs. After alternating years of qualifying with years of not, OC reached the playoffs two seasons in a row, in 2015 and 2016.
In 2015, Orange County finished atop the regular season, making it their best regular season finish ever, and in 2016, they snuck into the playoffs, but won a playoff game for the first time. In comparison, this year, OC finished in 10th place in the Western Conference, out of 15 teams.
That compares to 2012, when OC also finished two places outside of the playoffs. On the bright side, 2017 was not their worst season in league play terms, as 2014 takes the cake with a second-to-last finish, only ahead of a team that went out of business right after the season. So overall, compared to the seasons when they didn’t make the playoffs, this year is tied for best of three, but in the seven-year run overall including the playoff qualifications, it’s probably fifth-best.
U.S. Open Cup
The real progress this year came in the U.S. Open Cup. After posting a 3-5-1 record in the tournament all-time, including three straight tournaments without a win, Orange County won two games in a single Open Cup for the first time since 2011 and made it to the round to face MLS opposition, which unsurprisingly turned out to be the LA Galaxy.
In hindsight, given the Galaxy’s struggles in MLS this year, one can perhaps have hoped Orange County could have given them a run in the Open Cup, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still, with a couple more years of picking up experience in the USOC, perhaps OC can find a way to get a result against MLS opposition in the future and really kick on in this competition. Compared to their other campaigns in the Open Cup, the 2017 run ties 2011 for best ever in team history.
There’s good news on this front. Officially, the average attendance this year is 2,575, roughly double the all-time mark set in 2015. And moving into the new permanent stadium at Orange County Great Park, a small venue that nonetheless has modern amenities, is a huge step forward in the team’s history.
Of course, the official figures and the actual attendance do not necessarily match up, something that is a standard in American sports overall, for better or worse. Orange County had a few games with high attendance, comfortably in the 3,000-4,000 range, but there were also a few games with very low attendance. For the sake of comparison, official average attendance in 2016 for the OC Blues was 1,010, which overall seems like a big exaggeration, considering most games attracted low three figures.
Anyway, the fact that OCSC’s attendance hit an all-time high is a great sign. Does it guarantee they’ll increase the numbers even more next season? Not necessarily, as they’ll have to continue doing the marketing, outreach and community work to grow the local audience, but the rebound from last year’s terrible attendance is a good sign, and hopefully the start of a sustained upward trajectory.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!