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Orange County SC have a lot of ground to make up in USL

Multitude of byes leaves team with slew of games in hand.

Courtesy of Orange County SC

Orange County SC have done a lot of things right this year. Hiring a new head coach who appears to have good ideas and a solid game plan? Check. Revitalizing the roster with prospects and players who could have a future at a higher level? Yep. An overhaul of the branding and a rededication to marketing the team? You bet. A new home? Yes, although that’s coming in two parts.

Orange County isn’t the first and won’t be the last team to backload their schedule in a season to account for a move into a new stadium — Sporting Kansas City did this in 2011 and Toronto FC, while not moving to a new stadium, began two straight seasons with long road trips due to extensive renovation at their home.

As a result, Orange County has played eight games in the league this season, with only two at their temporary stadium in Orange County Great Park. The permanent stadium, under construction and also at Great Park, is also slated to open this season, although there’s been no date set to open that as of yet.

Add to that the number of byes OCSC have had so far this season — four. Most were only a week long, but they’re about to come off a stretch where they went three full weeks between one league game and the next. Four byes, one basically as long as many leagues’ winter breaks, and suffice it to say the schedule has been weird.

So it’s logical to explain all this, and then you take a look at the standings for the Western Conference at present.

You’ll see in the first column with numbers that Orange County SC have played eight games this year. The teams with the next fewest games played have suited up for 11 games to this point.

Two teams have played seven(!) more games than OC in the Western Conference so far this season. I know it will all even out in the end, but that swing is admittedly ridiculous. It becomes very hard to determine anything broad about teams, or even take the standings especially seriously, when one team has played just over half of the number of games of another one.

And again, while this just may have been the hand dealt to Orange County based on the external context, they have a veritable mountain to climb now. Unless they lose all their games in hand, they’ll make up ground on at least some of the teams above them, and their position as second-worst in the West should melt away.

But it’s one thing if a team has a game or three to make up because of scheduling. It’s another to make up this many games. Winning the seven games in hand on the teams that have played the most would vault them up near the top of the standings, and into a safe spot in the playoffs at the very least. But having so many byes all in a row early in the year, combined with a compressed schedule in the second half of the campaign, may lead to points dropped and the team’s fortunes for this season along with it.

Of course, it’s entirely possible Orange County pick up a good number of wins in their games in hand and this fearmongering I’m doing will be moot. But watching the rest of the league bolt out of the gate, while you’re still tying up your shoes and getting a light jog on, may be as tough mentally as it will otherwise normally be physically. Either way, Orange County SC will get to fully test their mettle over the final three-quarters of their season.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!