Playoff season is officially upon us here at Angels on Parade. Lucky for us, all of our teams have secured their spots in their respective postseasons. The first team to punch their ticket was USL Championship side, Orange County SC, who have fought through plenty of adversity on their way to not only reaching the playoffs, but finishing off the season so strong, they find themselves second in the West and hosting.
You won’t want to miss this 🍊
Come out and Pack The Champ this Saturday for our first round playoff match!
— x – Orange County SC (@orangecountysc) October 17, 2023
OCSC came into this season looking to shake off the disappointment of the 2022 campaign. Last season, the team finished 13th in the Western Conference, not even coming close to a playoff appearance. The start of the 2023 campaign didn’t look to be going any better early on. Eight matches in to the season the team had won just three matches, including a win in the U.S. Open Cup opener. The rough start reached it’s climax when the team made the decision to part ways with 2021 USL Championship winning Head Coach, Richard Chaplow.
Eight matches might not seem like that much before making such a decision, but with the context of the 2022 season, this was very clearly a team that was starting to trend in the wrong direction. In the end, the moved proved to be the right one at the exact right time. Under Interim Head Coach Morten Karlsen, the team has seen a complete turnaround from the start of the year. As we mentioned before, this side finished second place in the West, while often times looking like they’ve revived the form from the title winning 2021 side. Now, the team have a chance to really complete the comeback by winning their second USL Championship trophy, but first, they have to take care of business at home.
Our workhorse in the midfield 😤
— x – Orange County SC (@orangecountysc) October 16, 2023
Players to Watch
Ironically, the biggest player to keep eyes on during the postseason, wont even be action this weekend due to Red Card suspension. Midfielder, Kevin Partida, has been an MVP for OCSC this season. While not one to jump off the stat sheet, Partida has only one goal and one assist officially, but as a proper midfielder, his value comes in how he sets up everyone else. His ability to connect the defense with the offense, to ensure build-ups finish with at least an attempt on goal, as well as his control on ball in attack. The midfielder has started all 26 matches he has appeared in, and while the team will miss him Saturday, he will surely play a big role in the matches to come should OCSC advance.
Another important piece of the midfield is Kyle Scott, who has amassed five assists and finished third in the team with just over 52 passes per 90 minutes. No goals to his tally, the midfielder is another who has focused on service over finish. Besides, if its scoring you want, look no further than forward Milan Iloski. The 24-year old is the scorer supreme for this side, with a team high 16 goals this season. Recently announced to join Danish Superliga club FC Nordsjælland when the winter window opens on January 1, 2024, Milan has had a season to remember for sure, with five assists to go with his whopping goal scoring record. With Partida serving a suspension, the team will undoubtedly be looking towards Iloski to help carry the team past the opening round.
— x – Orange County SC (@orangecountysc) October 15, 2023
Quarterfinals at home
Not only did Orange County right the ship enough to get into the playoffs, but they come into the postseason hosting their opening round matchup against El Paso Locomotive FC, as well as riding some of, if not the best form in the USL Championship at the moment. As the saying goes, this team is peaking at exactly the right time. For their part, the visitors come into the match having lost just one of their last five coming into the postseason, with a 2-1 win in their season finale. It’s been a storybook second half to the season to even get to this point, but now, Orange County have work to do if they want to get that fairy tale ending the entire team is hoping for.
The USL Championship Western Conference Quarterfinals match is set for this Saturday at 7:30pm PT from Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, CA. The match will be streamed live, and can be seen on ESPN+.