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Orange County SC struggling, but strikers among league’s best

Work to do to get back in playoff reckoning, but there is production.

Courtesy of Orange County SC

Orange County SC knew they would have a target on their backs in 2022 as the USL Championship’s defending champion, but even they probably did not expect the regular season to have gone quite like this through the midway point, sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference at present, eight points below the playoff line.

Their latest result was a mix of the good and bad, as they went down to 10 men and conceded at the death to drop two points, but at the same time held firm to get a gritty 2-2 draw at Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday. For a team in need of wins, facing a Phoenix team that themselves have struggled this season by their lofty standards, it wasn’t a great result, but it wasn’t a loss.

At the same time, it must be said that OCSC have been struggling to get results, but their attack has been in form, with a brace scored by Milan Iloski in the draw in Arizona, to cap off a three-goal week for the UCLA product. His performance vaulted him into the USL Championship Team of the Week for Week 17, with OCSC midfielder Daniel Pedersen named to the Team of the Week bench.

In fact, Iloski now has 12 goals for the league season, which vaults him into the league lead for goals, moving ahead of Oakland Roots’ Óttar Magnús Karlsson, who had been leading the Golden Boot race for weeks.

And while Iloski has been drawing the attention in recent weeks since he’s hit form, he’s only one of two very productive forwards for Orange County, as Erick “Cubo” Torres himself has eight goals so far this season for the club. They’re the only teammates in the league who are in the top 10 in scoring together at present.

It’s a promising signpost, and while that doesn’t guarantee wins in themselves, it’s better than not scoring. Now, if OCSC can keep getting the goals on target and tighten up defensively, they may have what it takes to mount a charge into the playoffs over the final 16 regular-season games. Time will tell, but hopefully Iloski and Cubo continue to score down the homestretch.

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