Playoff soccer comes to Southern California this weekend as the Orange County Blues and LA Galaxy II face off in the USL playoffs (Saturday, 7:30 pm PT). Although the Blues finished atop the Western Conference during the regular season and earned the right to host the match, schedule conflicts with their current home ground of Anteater Stadium in Irvine mean the game has been moved to LA’s home ground of the StubHub Center, adding intrigue to a rivalry game.
The history of the “405 derby” has been pretty one-sided, with the Galaxy II winning the first six editions across 2014-15. But the Blues have come on of late to try and balance the ledger, drawing and winning their last two meetings against the local rival.
“I don’t think there’s any revenge [on our minds],” Galaxy II defender Daniel Steres told SoccerNation.com on Thursday. “What happened during the season happened. We finished where we finished and we’ve got a game on Saturday.”
Given the stakes, with a spot in the Western Conference finals on the line, this is essentially the biggest game in both teams’ history to date.
“We got to this point last year, second game of the playoffs, so in that respect, yeah [it’s our biggest game ever],” Steres said. “We need to come out and get a win to advance further than we did last year, further than we ever have.
“There is no bigger game in our season so far.”
Although there are a few more games to go before either side can win the USL championship, it’s certainly fair to say both teams believe they have what it takes to win it all.
“It would be amazing,” said Blues defender Josh Suggs on winning the USL title in a story on USLsoccer.com this week. “We all came into the season thinking we were going to win the championship, and we’re still at that stage now. If we didn’t win the championship, we would think we came up short. Obviously, we’re thinking about this next game only, but it would mean everything to us, especially if we beat the Galaxy II [on the way]. They’re our main rivals so we always have something to prove when we play against them.”
For Steres, a championship would be a reward of sorts for not only the Galaxy II team, but the LA Galaxy organization overall.
“Not only have we been developing players on our side, but we’ve been helping players on their side.
“This organization is a champion and we want to continue that, show that the guys who are developing on this team aren’t just developing talent and skill but developing a championship mentality and that we win and we know how to win.”