Orange County SC are set to face their toughest opponent of the season on Wednesday, as they will try to continue their 2017 U.S. Open Cup run if they beat the LA Galaxy. It’s the first game for the team against an MLS opponent since James Keston bought the team and they rebranded, and the first for the organization overall since 2013, when they fell to Chivas USA in the 3rd round of that year’s tournament.
With that in mind, here are three reasons why the Open Cup game against the Galaxy is a big deal for Orange County:
A chance to face (theoretically) MLS competition
To be honest, the Galaxy are likely to play a reserve-heavy lineup in this one, not only because that’s what MLS teams often do against lower-league opposition, but also because of the way the schedule is breaking. The Galaxy had last weekend off, so the starters who are around will be fresh, but injuries and an international call-up for Giovani dos Santos means the smart bet is that LA will play, or at least start, guys who don’t get a lot of playing time in MLS will against Orange County.
Regardless, if Orange County post a win against the Galaxy, history won’t really quibble over the players used by the MLS team, but instead focus on the win itself. Several Orange County players have had a cup of coffee at the MLS level and want to return. Others are looking to reach that level, and a good showing against the Galaxy — top XI or not — could go some way to impressing OCSC’s USL affiliate Los Angeles Football Club or if they aren’t interested, another MLS team for the future. Advancing in the tournament is a good way to get noticed, but that increases substantially when you’re playing MLS competition, and Orange County have a big opportunity to do that.
A proxy rivalry
Orange County’s biggest rival is LA Galaxy II, and they are affiliated with LAFC. Many expect the new LA rivalry in MLS to be good, although time will tell once the teams start playing each other next year.
In the meantime, this game is the closest thing to a LA rivalry game, even if Orange County have strongly identified with their LA-adjacent locale. Will a proxy rivalry, between the established pro powerhouse in the region, the second-oldest existing team in the region, and the future team that each side already shares some history with be enough to make this a good one-off rivalry game? Maybe, maybe not, but aside from the Boys Development Academy games this is the closest thing we’ll get to the real rivalry before 2018.
Plenty of free time for Orange County
Orange County waited to debut their temporary facility at Orange County Great Park and are hoping to open the permanent stadium at some point this season. Logically, they back-loaded their USL schedule, but the result has made for a lopsided first half of the season. The team, on their fourth bye week of the season (already a staggering fact), are on an incredible three-week bye in league play.
If they had lost in the Open Cup and not had the opportunity to play, Orange County would be sitting out of competitive action for three full weeks, which feels like an eternity in soccer season terms. As it’s shaken out, they’ve got this Open Cup game right in the middle of the break, which should give the players time to heal up and prepare for the match, but also something to focus on so they don’t lose match fitness altogether.
Basically, there are no excuses here for Orange County to feel like they aren’t ready for this game due to fixture congestion, because they have no fixtures at the moment. That’s not to say they’ll be favored or expected to beat the Galaxy, but they’ve got at least a chance, and that’s really all you can ask in a unique competition like the U.S. Open Cup.
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