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Orange County SC 2017 Player Postmortem: Sola Abolaji

Veteran defender waited for his chance, then made a memorable debut.

Courtesy of Orange County SC.

Heading into the 2017 USL season, there were a lot of questions about the new roster being constructed by Orange County SC. With literally just a few holdovers from 2016, the new group under Logan Pause was joining together for the first time, and it was unclear which players would emerge from the pack and play a major role.

I was present for the first OCSC scrimmage of preseason, against Loyola Marymount in LA, and one of the trialists on the field that day was a physically imposing central defender in Sola Abolaji. I didn’t know his backstory at that point, as a journeyman who had played around the U.S. and Canada before a stint in Sweden and Norway, before playing relatively locally for the Ventura County Fusion a couple years ago.

Coming out of the scrimmage, it seemed pretty likely from my outside perspective that Abolaji would be in the mix for starter’s minutes at center back during the season, and given his experience, could be the opening day starter. It didn’t exactly turn out that way, however.

While he was on a few gameday 18s during the season, Abolaji wasn’t a factor at all on the field during games for Orange County until Aug. 18, when he scored the late equalizer against Phoenix Rising FC after coming off the bench in what appeared to be a Hail Mary move by Pause. That gritty result was one of the emotional highpoints of what turned out to be a disappointing season overall for Orange County, and Abolaji making his debut in high style was pretty great.

But there wasn’t a lot more to Abolaji’s season beyond that. He played in four additional games for Orange County, but a red card early in the second half against Reno 1868 FC on Sept. 2 doomed OC’s chances of getting a much-needed result. While I thought that red card was rather harsh, it was a killer in terms of OC’s playoff aspirations, and did not help the team stay competitive in the race to the postseason.

Here are Abolaji’s statistics in 2017 with Orange County:

Abolaji OCSC 2017 statistics

2017 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2017 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
USL Regular Season 5 1 104 1 0 5 3 1 1
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 1 104 1 0 5 3 1 1

Given that it appears to have been a disappointing campaign overall on a personal level for Abolaji, indications on his social media are that he’s moving on from a playing role, opening up a futsal program in Colorado recently. Obviously USL playing contracts aren’t the most lucrative in the world, and he could still work to get another deal, likely with another team, but at 32 the indications appear to be that he’s moving to the next phase of his life.

Still, Abolaji, and Orange County SC, will always have that goal and the celebrations late in the game on that August night.

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