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Orange County Blues 2016 Player Postmortem: Mats Bjurman

Rookie improved as season wore on.

Bjurman (in blue) evading opposing defenders.
Courtesy of OC Blues FC

Mats Bjurman was one of the most intriguing players signed by the Orange County Blues ahead of the 2016 season. The midfielder, a UC Irvine product who had impressed with PSA Elite in the U.S. Open Cup, embarked on his professional career in earnest with the Blues.

One of a handful of players who was a fixture in the lineup for pretty much the entire season, he seemed to play his way into the USL level as the season progressed. Never considered a “key man” in the lineup, Bjurman nonetheless played a supporting role very effectively in midfield, providing a good two-way game that became increasingly assured over the campaign.

Bjurman 2016 OC Blues statistics

2016 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2016 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
USL Regular Season 23 16 1,313 1 4 8 7 0 0
USL Playoffs 2 2 182 0 0 1 0 0 0
U.S. Open Cup*
Total 25 18 1,495 1 4 9 7 0 0

Bjurman is still just 22 at the moment, and while he didn’t really ever get MLS buzz coming out of college, there is the inkling that he still has substantial room to grow in his game in USL. Is he a stone-cold lock to be a midfielder capable of carrying a team? No, but there are no sure things. His age and steady improvement in his rookie year indicates his ceiling is much higher and we could hear much, much more in the future from Bjurman.

All of that will occur away from Orange County, at least in 2017, however, as Bjurman signed with Preki’s new project at Saint Louis FC, joining 2016 Blues teammates Matt Sheldon and Ivan Mirkovic. Frankly, the move is probably pretty smart for Bjurman, as Preki’s visibility in American soccer circles will most likely lead to more eyeballs on the midfielder. Add to that the crucible Preki puts his teams through, with an uncompromising approach that on the field manifests in a “often brutal yet mostly effective” style, and Bjurman’s composure on both sides of the ball could set him up for success moving forward.

And given Orange County SC’s new commitment to signing local products, it’s a shame Bjurman and the club couldn’t come to terms to bring him back. But that’s the way it works in pro sports sometimes, and Bjurman has the potential to develop more fully as a pro. It’s just going to be a long way from home in 2017.

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