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2016 Orange County Blues Player Postmortem: Brenton Griffiths

Defender was a rock again for the team.

Liza Rosales/OC Blues FC

Brenton Griffiths entered the 2016 season with the Orange County Blues coming off a career season, in which he anchored the defense, helped the Blues finish the regular season atop the Western Conference, and received USL Second-Team honors for his quality play.

It was a little surprising, then, to see Griffiths start the season as an apparent odd man out in defense. With his 2015 partner at center back, Beto Navarro, having departed the team in 2016, Griffiths’ impact seemed more important than ever. But he started as a rotational back behind Maurice Pluntke and Steve Purdy.

It is possible he was carrying an injury early in the season to keep him out of the lineup — without any disclosure on the injury front it is always difficult to precisely determine what is the context when a player does not play. But before long, Griffiths played his way back into the lineup, and was a fixture over the latter two-thirds of the 2016 season.

Griffiths 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 26 18 1,786 3 0 10 4 7 0
USL Playoffs 2 2 203 0 0 0 0 1 0
U.S. Open Cup*
Total 28 20 1,989 3 0 10 4 8 0

In addition to his steady play in defense, Griffiths once again came up big in attack, scoring three goals on the season, including the shock injury-time winner on the road against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Given the Blues qualified for the playoffs on goal difference, every single point counted, and in the end, those two additional points picked up over the ThunderCaps were the difference between making an unprecedented playoff run and staying home.

Griffiths, of course, has moved on in his career, signing in the offseason for USL expansion side Reno 1868 FC. It’s the nature of the business, but it is also disappointing to see him depart. While Orange County have moved in a new direction this offseason to get younger and focus on promising prospects, a player like Griffiths marshaling the back once more would have been good for the team, in my opinion. Griffiths himself is still just 26, certainly not “young” by any stretch but not an old man dragging himself around the field, either. And having the continuity (not to mention a reunion with Navarro, when the duo played so well together in 2015) in an important position would have been useful in the latest roster churn and in getting actual results.

But that wasn’t to be. Griffiths will likely continue to play at a high level in USL, but instead of suiting up for Orange County SC, he’ll be on the other side when they kick off the new season on Mar. 25.

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