Orange County SC have been in the driver’s seat in the USL Western Conference for several weeks now, but there’s been a persistent specter lurking, preventing us from declaring them the No. 1 seed for the USL Cup Playoffs: Phoenix Rising FC.
Phoenix had a game in hand on Orange County, and were capable of catching OCSC on points throughout this stretch, until Wednesday.
That’s when Las Vegas Lights FC posted a surprise 5-2 win over Phoenix Rising in the Arizona club’s game in hand. The result? With one game left to play for both teams, Orange County SC lead Phoenix in the standings by three points.
Now, Orange County’s destiny is truly in their own hands: They need a draw or a win over Reno 1868 in Nevada on Saturday to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and home-field advantage through the Western Conference rounds. Even if OC lost and Phoenix beat Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday in their finale, Phoenix would need to overturn Orange County’s goal difference edge, currently six goals.
Still, one expects the route to take here is to get a result over Reno, and then Orange County will have won the Western Conference regular season crown, for the second time in club history. The work isn’t done yet, but OC no longer need to sweat out Phoenix’s results, instead focusing on themselves to see if they finish in first place.
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