The Southern California USL sides are on the road this weekend, with the end of the regular season in sight and still some things to play for.
The team with the most tangible items to play for is Orange County SC, who will head to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps FC 2 on Sunday afternoon. OC may have gotten a win last weekend, but they faltered midweek, losing 1-0 to San Antonio FC at home on Wednesday to once again dent their playoff hopes. A 55th-minute free kick from Ben Newnam was unintentionally dummied by San Antonio FC defender Sebastien Ibeagha, fooling OC ‘keeper Charlie Lyon as it went into the net. While Orange County performed better overall in the game and had a handful of close calls on the attacking end, they failed to pick up points in one of their final games in hand on the Western Conference field and are essentially in playoff mode now to even reach the playoffs.
They face off against Vancouver in must-win mode, and while WFC2 haven’t lit the world on fire this season, sitting one spot out of last place, Whitecaps FC 2 have traditionally been a tough team to play at their home. Last season, OC’s win in British Columbia on a last-gasp set piece was a terrific example, and if Orange County want to win this must-win game, they’ll need to be at their absolute best against an opponent that may want to save face in spite of a difficult campaign. Otherwise, if OC lose and/or their immediate competitors for the final playoff spot in Colorado Springs Switchbacks and OKC Energy FC win, their hopes for the playoffs may be effectively over with a month to go in the season.
On the other side, LA Galaxy II are still mathematically alive for the playoffs, but the odds put them at a mere 0.1 percent to qualify this year, so they would need to win out and probably have other things break their way to get in. It’s arguable they’ve been in spoiler mode for weeks, and with the season effectively gone from a playoffs perspective they’ve improved in their play. On Saturday, they’ll square off for the final time this season against their biggest rival, Sacramento Republic FC, in Sacramento.
Republic are in the playoffs and unlikely to fall out of the Top 8 before the end of the season, but their form has been rather inconsistent lately, although a late win last week bolstered their confidence in the homestretch of the season. Of particular note, the team has been adding several players in recent weeks to bolster the squad, and given that it’s a rivalry match, LA will likely find a ferocious challenger. Still, Mike Munoz’s side has played much better the past month, in spite of the results not always going their way, and the occasion may give the Galaxy II players the little extra motivation to get one over on the NorCal foe.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. LA Galaxy II is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 pm PT on Saturday in Sacramento. You can watch the game on USL’s Matchcenter.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Orange County SC will kick off at 4 pm PT on Sunday in Vancouver. The game will be available on USL’s Matchcenter.