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Orange County SC coach Braeden Cloutier on life in coronavirus shutdown

Manager talks coping in unique circumstance in exclusive interview.

Liza Rosales / Liza Rosales Photography

If feels like a long time ago, but it was less than two weeks ago, when Orange County SC opened the 2020 USL Championship season with a 0-0 draw at home against El Paso Locomotive back on March 6.

Since then, the league, along with all other sports in the United States, was shut down last week, originally for 30 days and on Wednesday extended until at least May 10.

It’s truly unknown territory at this point. But while it’s new and different, having to stop play after just one week into the season, Orange County SC head coach Braeden Cloutier is prepared to ride it out.

“Things are going fine,” Cloutier told Angels on Parade in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “Everybody in my family is well. It’s not really ideal, there’s not really much to do but get to know your family a little bit better. We’ve stayed in, watched a lot of movies, Netflix, and playing card games and such, but everybody is good and everybody understands the situation.”

With other leagues putting in moratoriums on training for now to help combat the spread of coronavirus, Cloutier confirmed that was also true for the USL Championship and OCSC.

“Yes, that’s correct,” he said. “We’re pretty much following the same guidelines as what the other leagues are doing right now. Every player’s got an individual program, we can’t train together as a team, but we’re checking in with all the players on a regular basis, just to make sure everybody’s healthy and obviously everybody’s following their fitness programs.”

While players can do their best to train on their own during a societal shutdown, I wondered what it was like for coaches to bide their time. Given just one game has been played, there’s only so many times you can watch the game tape. But Cloutier said there was work to be done to make sure the team is in the best shape when they can be reunited and out on the field again.

“I think using this time wisely and taking advantage of this time as a staff to constantly get better and improve and see where we can improve and how we can be more efficient once the season gets back started,” he explained. “I was just on a long conference call with [assistant coach] Richard Chaplow and [technical director] Frans Hoek and we went over quite a bit of information and we only got through half of it. So these are times we can take advantage of finding these details and clean some of this stuff up so we can become efficient when we get back as a team.”

But the head coach admitted he’s watched that draw against El Paso quite a few times, too.

“I’ve watched the game back several times and done a lot of analysis of the game and from where we were at in the season and our preseason, getting people 100 percent fit, I think it was par for the course. Watching it back, there’s a lot of room for improvement in a lot of different areas of the game and fitness being one of them. The most disappointing thing is we can’t train together as a team and get some of these relationships and these partnerships more polished up, so to speak. The players have homework, they’ve watched the game, they’ve seen their clips, we can continue to work with video and obviously with their fitness plans.”

“That game itself, I was pretty pleased,” he added. “El Paso’s a very, very good team, had a good run last year, got to the conference final and they retained several of their players from last year. Going into that game I knew it was going to be a good test for us and kind of give us an idea of where we’re at. And I think overall it was a really good soccer game.”

Cloutier was asked if he had a message to Orange County SC fans at this time.

“I think more than anything, hope everybody’s healthy and takes care of themselves and listens to the plans and the rules the government and the states have set out for each area. And I just wish everybody all the very best, and before too long this will all be over with and we’ll be back on the field and hopefully winning some games for our fans.”

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