In some ways, Chris Wehan may have been ahead of his time.
The Orange County native spent his high school days watching Orange County Blues games when the club now known as Orange County SC launched back in 2011.
“I knew players, older than me, growing up they were from here and they were playing for Orange County Blues back in the day, back at UCI,” Wehan said last week during Orange County SC’s media day. “It’s been fun to watch and it’s fun to see this organization progress and obviously this stadium get built and the Great Park and a lot of exciting things that have happened around this organization and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
In fact, Wehan, now 27, briefly played for the organization’s U-23 team while on summer break from playing NCAA soccer at New Mexico, and perhaps if the timing had been better the attacker may have played for Orange County’s first team far, far sooner.
As it happened, Wehan wrapped up his pro career with New Mexico and had a stellar rookie campaign with Reno 1868 FC in 2017, winning USL Rookie of the Year. He signed an MLS deal with the San Jose Earthquakes and split his time between the Bay Area outfit and Reno, before heading to New Mexico United for their first two years and becoming a key player at his second home.
In that way, landing Wehan wasn’t just about bringing a local guy home — he offers plenty on the field, too.
“I’ve been a big fan of Chris Wehan for the last three, four years,” said Orange County SC head coach Braeden Cloutier. “Even with his time when he was back at Reno, I knew what kind of quality he had, and then even during that when he went from Reno to New Mexico, [assistant GM] Peter Nugent and I have had him on our board for a long, long time. He’s always been a player that we’ve definitely admired and I think for us, he’s a player that we needed to bring into this team and with the creativeness that he brings with his quality of set pieces and in his final pass to again to get balls to Thomas Enevoldsen and for the other players up front. I mean Chris has been a tremendous acquisition for this club and for this community, being here from Orange County, coming back home. I think things are coming full circle.”
Wehan has been beloved at each of his previous stops in the USL Championship and he retains fondness for where he’s been while being excited about what’s to come.
“My first emotion [upon signing with OCSC] is obviously super excited. You know, I’ve been dreaming about coming back home since since I left right out of high school and went to play at the University of New Mexico so it’s been about eight and a half years since I’ve been been gone, essentially, but you know the same time a little bittersweet. I had such a great experience in New Mexico. So the emotions were tough there as well, leaving friends and such a great community but ultimately just really excited to be here. Can’t wait to play in front of family and friends again and hopefully help this club to success over the next couple years,” Wehan said.
Orange County SC dropped their season opener, a tight 1-0 loss at Tacoma Defiance on Sunday. With Saturday being the home opener, against another tough opponent in Sacramento Republic, Wehan understands how big every game will be this season in the Pacific Division.
“I think when I was watching Orange County from the outside [last season] it was obvious they dealt with a really tough group, and really anyone could have won that group and anyone could have finished last, it was really up in the air,” said Wehan. “And I think every game is a battle and that’s definitely what we’re gonna expect from this group and you know the West is always strong but I think the competitor me. I want to win and I don’t shy away from the fact that this group is going to be very tough but it’s just another challenge I’m looking forward to.”
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