The latest round of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup is here, as the two Southern California teams active this round square off against each other. Local amateur side LA Wolves FC host Orange County SC at Azusa Pacific University Wednesday night.
While this might be an amateur vs. pro USOC game, that is the situation essentially on paper only. Not only are Wolves of course coached by Eric Wynalda, who has success in the Open Cup with lower level teams, including amateur side Cal FC back in 2012, but the roster itself is stacked with former pros. Former MLS players Chris Klute, Paolo Cardozo and Bryan de la Fuente play for the UPSL side, although the latter is not eligible for the Open Cup this year, and well-traveled Argentine Lucas Scaglia also plays for the Wolves, among others.
One player with connections to both sides is midfielder Pablo Cruz, who signed midseason last year for the Orange County Blues (Orange County SC’s former brand), but disappointed in limited time and was not even part of the roster come season’s end. Cruz has impressed so far for LA Wolves and has played some of his best soccer under Wynalda.
While Cruz’s recent knowledge of Orange County could help in this game, in reality that connection is rather tenuous, given the turnover on the roster and coaching staff from last season to this year. Logan Pause’s squad is far younger than the Blues under Barry Venison, and while last year’s group impressed in the playoffs, this year’s team looks to have far more young exciting prospects on it and are off to a solid start in USL this year despite playing a road-heavy and bye-laden schedule so far.
So while OCSC got the Open Cup monkey off their backs last round with their win over PDL side FC Golden State Force, this upcoming game, even coming against a technically amateur side in LA Wolves, is going to be tough. That said, while a loss would not at all be a surprise for Orange County, they absolutely have enough to win this game and should not punt the opportunity to play MLS opposition in the next round, as their players have the chance to show what they can do against the LA Galaxy in the fourth round if they advance.
Both teams are talented, both are motivated, and this will likely be one of the games of the third round. The Wolves will move one step closer to winning the open division cash prize if they win (six teams are still eligible for the $15,000 prize, with only one guaranteed to advance at this point), and their players will be back in the shop window for pro teams if they continue their run in the Open Cup. Orange County players have the motivation to continue their run and ensure they maintain bragging rights against the local lower division competition with a win. Two Southern California teams enter — which one will emerge? We’ll find out Wednesday night.
LA Wolves FC vs. Orange County SC is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 pm PT on Wednesday at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa. If you can’t make the game, there is supposed to be a live stream of the match on USSoccer.com.