The Orange County Blues may have finished the 2016 USL campaign with arguably the best season in club history, after winning their first ever playoff game, but the club is entering this season with a hard reset.
Of course, changes were certainly expected this year, after James Keston took over as the club’s majority owner last fall. And with the biggest change, a full rebrand to Orange County SC, fully unveiled, attention can turn to the on-field matters, with preseason beginning for the team this week.
New coach Logan Pause is embarking on his first pro head coaching job, but the longtime Chicago Fire midfielder has been busy before the start of preseason, as OCSC have held several weekends of tryouts since the start of the year, concluding with a trialist scrimmage against NPSL side SoCal SC this past weekend, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw.
Eight players have been announced thus far for the upcoming season, three of them (veterans Roy Meeus and Richard Chaplow, plus 2016 tryout “winner” Dusan Stevanovic) returning. For the other players, there appears to be a trend towards young, promising players. That’s frankly the name of the game in USL, but the youth trend is a bit more explicit this season for Orange County in light of their partnership with MLS expansion team LAFC. While signing for Orange County SC is no guarantee of any move to MLS, adding the likes of U.S. youth international Juan Pablo Ocegueda and Mexican youth international Salomon Wbias means the young players are likely getting a season-long tryout to see if they can excel in USL and possibly make the move to MLS next year.
Eight players does not a roster make, of course, and plenty of signings will be announced ahead of the season opener on March 25. Along with that, Orange County have yet to announce their home venue for the new season. That is sure to come shortly, and the reboot of Orange County SC will continue ahead of the 2017 campaign.