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Why Orange County SC winning USL Goal of the Week is about more than a goal

It’s just an internet vote, but also possible reasons for optimism around the club.

Soccer: Fort Lauderdale Strikers at New York Cosmos Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Time was, if there was a public vote for anything related to the Orange County USL team, OC would get crushed in the popular vote, as fans from other teams would rush in to make sure their teams won, and handily.

So imagine my surprise when USL announced on Thursday that Orange County SC midfielder Victor Pineda won USL Goal of the Week for his game-winning strike against Portland Timbers 2 last week.

He nabbed 43 percent of the vote, to beat out Kris Tyrpak’s beauty for San Antonio FC. Truth be told, both goals were really great. Either one would be a worthy winner. But before now, an Orange County player just wouldn’t win the fan vote.

Oh sure, the USL Goal of the Week is a new thing this year and so there are many more opportunities for fans to vote on USL things as a result. Since it wasn’t done in the past, we don’t know with precise certainty that an OC player wouldn’t have won — maybe the people would really be wowed one week and actually vote away from their team and for the SoCal player.

But to me, this points to a real uptick in fortunes for Orange County. Whether that’s momentarily or sustainable is another question.

I am guessing that Pineda got some votes due to his prior stint with the Chicago Fire, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I also think Orange County’s partnership with MLS expansion side Los Angeles Football Club has helped the team get a lot more attention already, and I think it’s paying off in popularity contests like this Goal of the Week vote.

The team’s efforts to market themselves once again, after essentially going dark last year on that front, may also be paying off, little by little. In a crowded Southern California entertainment and sports landscape, it’s going to be hard for the team to build up a massive fanbase, and we’ll see this season at their new home if they’re going to be able to consistently draw more than, say, 2,000 or 3,000 a game. Maybe they will and past futility in bringing fans to Orange County games will stay in the past. But some effort needed to be made to actively encourage more fans, and more marketing coupled with the LAFC partnership should help.

So all in all, Pineda’s award, to go along with his USL Team of the Week honor, is nice recognition of what was a pretty sweet goal. But the fact that it was a popular vote perhaps shows that the winds are shifting a bit when it comes to the visibility of Orange County SC. Maybe it’s just a one-week blip and the rest of the league will go back to forgetting OCSC, or maybe it’s the start of the team having a greater presence around USL and the local community, and that would certainly be a good thing.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!