Match Day 5 will see San Antonio FC return to Toyota Field for their first back to back home matches of 2018 as they welcome Orange County SC to the Alamo City. After putting up five goals versus Tulsa, OC followed that up with three more vs LA2 for their third straight win. Orange County is off to a surprising start, to say the least, leading the way in many statistical categories in the early going of the 2018 season, including pulling off the Oklahoma Double, getting wins at both Tulsa and OKC Energy. We caught up with one of our most favorite USL writers this week, Alicia Rodriguez (@soccermusings) of Angels on Parade (@angels_parade) to get the scoop on Orange County and all their success so far in 2018. Here we go into another edition of the Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) Orange County missed the playoffs last season but they are coming to San Antonio flying high. They are on top of the USL West and they have outscored their opponents nine to zero on their current three-match win streak. It seems to all be going right for OC so far in 2018. Are you surprised by this quick turnaround, and what do you attribute the success to?
(AR) I think given the turnover on the roster and the new coach, it’s hard to project how a team will perform at the start of the season. And to be fair, the teams Orange County have beaten lately look like they are struggling at the moment.
I think the bigger thing is that Orange County went with more experience this year. Last season, the roster had a lot of promising young pros, but a difficult schedule corresponding to the opening of their new stadium and a lack of depth did them in. This season, the team has far more experience, a normal schedule, and depth? Time will tell if they have improved on that level.
- 2 – Thomas Enevoldsen had a hat trick against Tulsa, and generally speaking he is off to a great start this year, easily leading the team with 4 goals. In fact, he’s tied for second in goals scored in all of USL. Tell us more about him and what makes him such a capable scoring threat, and is it surprising to see his name up there among the best in USL?
Enevoldsen is a former Danish international, so I think it is safe to say his pedigree is better than all but a few USLers. A center forward, he has mostly played up top, but he also shows an ability to link up with teammates and get them involved in the attack. Above all, Enevoldsen can finish chances — with the plethora of promise and projects bouncing around the league, having a player who can score is pretty valuable.
- 3 – Now that LAFC is finally up and running in MLS, has the dynamic or expectations for Orange County shifted in any way?
It’s hard to say at this point. LAFC hasn’t loaned any players to OC yet, which is a bit odd. The only mitigating factor is that LAFC only has 23 players available and in town right now, and it’s perhaps not a surprise that they are eager to send players down the road. I think when Andre Horta, their third Designated Player, arrives, they are most likely going to loan an international player out due to roster restrictions, and I think there is a good chance that loanee will go to Orange County. From there, we’ll see.
- 4 – Defensively, this seems to be an improved team as well, as Orange County is tied for the league lead with three early shutouts behind GK Andre Rawls. What can you tell us about him and the defense?
The defense brings back Oscar Sorto and Walker Hume but otherwise, the group in the back is new this season. Again, they’ve played a few struggling opponents, and LA Galaxy II probably ought to have scored a goal last week.
Rawls joins Orange County on loan from NYCFC. He’s been brought back several years, so they clearly like him, even though he’s been third- and fourth-string there. He’s got USL experience, after playing well for the Wilmington Hammerheads a few years back, and so far he’s been steady in goal this season.
- 5 – Orange County is a perfect 2 wins in two matches on the road so far this season. Does that give them a burst of confidence that they can come into a place like Toyota Field, where SAFC has only lost once since 2017, and get a positive result?
I think they are confident, for sure. Three-game winning streaks have not been common in recent years, and they are undefeated on the road. But again, each year is a bit of a blank slate, both for most of USL but also for Orange County. We’ll see if the magic they found in Oklahoma a couple weeks back will continue in Texas.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about Orange County SC.
OC opened their permanent stadium last year in Irvine. It’s an impressive venue, with locker rooms and amenities, probably among the very best purpose-built USL stadiums around. If you get a chance to visit Orange County, you should check out a game there.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – L W D D, 2018 Home Record 1-1-0
Orange County – D L W W W, 2018 Road Record 2-0-0
San Antonio FC – 5 points, GF 4, GA 4, 0 GD, 11th in USL West
Orange County – 10 points, GF 10, GA 2, +8 GD, 2nd in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC is 2-1-1 all-time vs Orange County, however in their current incarnation as Orange County SC, their record is 1-1-0, with SAFC getting one win and one tie against them in their 2017 debut season under the re-brand.
San Antonio defeated Orange County 1-0 at Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park on September 13, 2017. Defender Ben Newnam had the winner in the 55th minute on a free kick, in what would be his first and only goal in a San Antonio FC uniform.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Orange County SC (3-1-1) at San Antonio FC (1-2-1) #SAvOC
Kickoff 7:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
For the second straight week, one of the top teams of the USL West Table comes to San Antonio, and Orange County will be feeling even better about themselves than Swope did, once they get here. Winners of three straight games, putting up three straight shutouts and, outscoring their opponents nine to zero during that span, Orange County looks like the class of the Conference at the moment. Everywhere you look statistically, Orange County is thriving. They’re tied for second in most goals scored in all of USL with 10, led by Thomas Enevoldsen with 4. They’re tied for first in clean sheets with three, led by their starting keeper Andre Rawls who has all three. And they’re even tied for a top-five place in passing accuracy. In short, everything is working for Orange County in the early going. This will be SAFC’s biggest challenge of the season so far.
For San Antonio FC, the defense seems to be coming around, only conceding two goals in the last three matches. Considering they held one of the most prolific scoring offenses in USL to only one goal last week, that is a great sign for a defense that was still missing two long-term starters in the back four. Although Cochrane did return to the pitch to get his feet back under him for some late minutes last week. We’d expect him to be back in the starting lineup this weekend.
Offensively, this team remains challenged. Only three teams in all of USL West have scored fewer goals than SAFC’s four through four matches. They’ll get a boost from the return of leading scorer Mikey Lopez from suspension this week after he was red carded in LA two weeks ago. But the biggest disappointment of the young season continues to be the disappearance of Ever Guzman’s goal-scoring ability. He looked primed for a huge season coming out of pre-season red hot, but he hasn’t been able to put it together so far now that the games are counting. It’s hard to imagine SAFC can achieve the lofty expectations for their season without production from the Mexican International.
Certainly, it’s not ALL about Guzman. The struggles are persistent throughout most of the offense. And as a result, San Antonio FC has been forced to play from behind every week (except LA2 which ended 0-0). That’s definitely not what a team struggling to score needs to face, week in and week out.
Escalante finally made his SAFC debut last week, but only had 30 minutes to make an impact. Guadarrama has yet to live up to the promise that we saw in pre-season flashes. Tyrpak has only managed one goal. Youngster Presley has had the appearances but hasn’t broken through yet. Bruce has only seen the pitch once. Elizondo has yet to come off of the injury list. And Forward Mike Seth has been on defensive duty to start the year. And then last week, they needed the first ever SAFC goal from Pecka, off of a Swope turnover deep in their end, to rescue a point. Bottom line, a one goal per game average isn’t going to get it done in this league, and zero goals from the Forward position after the first month of play is a troubling sign.
Looking at how hot OC is at the moment, and how tough their defense has been in the early going, combined with SAFC’s offensive form – or lack of it – and we’re predicting a defeat for San Antonio for the second week in a row. Last week they came back and earned a tough draw – can they prove us wrong again?
San Antonio FC – 1
Orange County SC – 2
SAFC “Did You Know?”
San Antonio FC Midfielder Jacques Francois holds the single-game Assist record for SAFC with 2 on June 23, 2016, at Toyota Field vs then-named Orange County Blues.