Orange County SC will kick off their 10th season in the USL Championship Friday night against El Paso Locomotive at Orange County Great Park.
Spirits are high for OCSC in 2020, with Braeden Cloutier back for his third season as head coach and a slew of promising signings joining up with a strong core returning for the new season.
Cloutier and the players spoke about the coming season and the current squad at the club’s media day in Irvine on Tuesday.
“I think this squad is well-balanced,” Cloutier said. “I think some of the squads we had in the past, maybe a little bit better in the back, maybe a little bit deficient in the front, but I think this squad that we put together this year is going to be balanced top to bottom.
“We’ve got experience in the back, we’ve got experience up front, and a solid spine of our team, but at the same time one of the goals of the club is obviously the youth players, the younger players. And we have seven players that are under the age of 18, all are youth internationals, that are learning their trades. Every single one of these guys is going to be able to contribute to our team as well.”
Orange County welcomed back former top scorer Thomas Enevoldsen this season, after he spent 2019 at two other USL Championship outfits, and picked up former USL MVP Sean “Ugo” Okoli, Seth Casiple from Reno 1868, former LA Galaxy defender Nathan Smith, former top American prospect Brian Iloski, veteran defender Rob Kiernan, and a trio of players — Cammy Palmer, Matthew Shiels and Danny Finlayson — on loan from Scottish power Rangers FC, as part of the two clubs’ partnership forged in the offseason.
The goals are crystal clear for Cloutier in 2020 with OCSC.
“First and foremost, championship,” he said. “Expectations and standards are extremely high this year, I think for the first time in the history of the organization we’ve had everybody in from day one. For me, being head coach, my third season, I think we learned a lot the last two years. We’ve done our due diligence when it came to recruiting and identifying players this offseason. I think we’ve done a good job, [assistant GM] Peter Nugent and Oliver [Wyss, OC’s GM], in the acquisitions of these players, and I think we’re ready to roll, from day one.”
One of the key players returning, veteran defender Michael Orozco, has personal goals, but not surprisingly it’s in the service of winning a title.
“For myself, [my goal is] playing as many games as I can, being healthy, help my team accomplish the championship and our first test is on Friday so we’re taking it step by step and I want to give all the help I can, on and off the field to help our team get to the championship,” he said.
“I think it’s great, coming together. A lot of young, older guys with a lot of experience, great competition internally is obviously needed to win the championship,” Orozco added.
Even the newcomers sound like they’re fully ready to go this season.
“First impressions were strong team, full of talented players here,” Iloski said. “Great club, ready to compete for a championship, so I’m excited.”
Spirits are high, but Orange County SC think they have the cohesion to be legit contenders this year.
“It’s family. We’re very united,” Orozco said.
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