Less than a week until Orange County SC enters a new era in its history, kicking off the 2017 USL season against Reno 1868 on the road on Saturday. It’s a new name, a new head coach in Logan Pause, and a roster that is mostly new. Of the 17 players announced as signings for this season so far, three are returning from last year’s team, which did win a playoff game for the first time in team history.
With the season opener right around the corner, let’s take a look at the state of the roster. Of course, it’s quite likely more signings will be announced in the coming days.
Goalkeepers: Charlie Lyon, Casey Beyers
First of all, it’s important to realize that with a brand new head coach and a roster of players put together for the first time, it’s hard to handicap exactly which players will emerge as starters. Take all of this with a grain of salt until we’ve seen a game or three.
That said, it seems pretty obvious that Lyon, who has quite a bit of USL experience with Seattle Sounders 2, will be the starter in goal for Orange County. He’s still very young for a goalkeeper, at 24, and is quite possibly playing for a shot to be Los Angeles Football Club’s No. 2 or No. 3 next year.
Beyers isn’t that much younger than Lyon, and while a rookie could always push a veteran for playing time, unless Beyers is really getting the best of Lyon in training on a regular basis he’s probably going to be the understudy for the season.
There’s no requirement to have three goalkeepers on the roster, but most pro teams do that. Expect Orange County to add another one at some point.
Defenders: Sola Abolaji, Joe Franco, Roy Meeus, Beto Navarro, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Oscar Sorto, Salomon Wbias
The group of defenders is quite possibly the most intriguing part of the roster. The only defender to return is Roy Meeus, and while I think in some respects he makes more sense played higher up the field, let’s assume he’ll be considered a defender by Pause. Let’s put him in as a starter right off the bat, for his set piece ability alone.
That means Ocegueda won’t start, unless he plays on the right. Sorto and Franco will likely compete for right back, with good shouts for both of them based on their experience in the past in USL. The point is, there appears to be real depth at fullback, to the point where a case could be made for all four players at the position to start in two spots.
I would guess that in the middle, Abolaji and Navarro would start, unless Wbias really is a revelation in the making and can’t be kept off the field. Obviously three central defenders isn’t enough for a roster, so expect around two more center back signings to come.
Midfielders: Richard Chaplow, Kevin Jeon, Amirgy Pineda, Victor Pineda, Dusan Stevanovic, Gustavo Villalobos
Another part of the field with considerable questions, not least the formation Pause will opt to use. He played around with a diamond midfield at times in preseason, which is obviously a lot different than a flat 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1.
My gut feeling is that Chaplow and Villalobos will be starters out of the gate, most likely, with the other positions a question mark, again, depending on the formation and any forthcoming signings. Another question is who will play holding midfield. Chaplow played a box-to-box role last season, but was playing alongside a midfield terrier in Ivan Mirkovic. Is there a player on the OCSC roster capable of doing the midfield dirty work to push the attacking players on?
Forwards: Jerry van Ewijk, Duke Lacroix
Well, if Pause plays two forwards, this is self-evident at the moment, but given his blazing preseason, van Ewijk seems like a lock to start at this point. Lacroix seems like a good support striker option, so this could fit together well, but a team can’t really get by with just two strikers. Expect at least two more players to be signed at this position.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!