image: OC Blues FC Twitter
A late Carlos Alvarez equalizer earned San Antonio FC a point on the road Wednesday night against Western Conference leading LA Galaxy II. 5 points through their first 3 games is a solid start for the new club, but against a struggling OC Blues FC side anything less than a victory will likely be a disappointment.
The Blues currently sit in 13th with 1 point through 3 games. Ironically, their lone point came from a 1-1 draw with Southern California rivals Los Dos. Like San Antonio, OC has no MLS affiliate so victory in USL and Open Cup play is the goal for the entire organization. OC won the Western Conference regular season title last season but was upset in their first playoff game against Los Dos. They’ll be looking to turn this slow 2016 start around and repeat their regular season success from last year.
Match Details: Game four. Anteater Stadium. Irvine, CA. Sat. 4/16/2016. Kickoff at 9pm Central
Keys for SAFC: In the pre-season, Coach Powell commented about not forgetting what they’ve been successful with as they implement more tactics. In a similar vein, Ford and McCarthy need to help settle their back line down early and maintain the defensive success they’ve had through friendlies and regular season play. The offensive ball movement has been better as time has gone on, but they can’t let their back four get lost in the process.
Player To Watch: Alvarez, Rafa, Garcia, JJ, and many others have all shown flashes of brilliance, but an underrated player that is allowing them to attack strongly is center back Sam McBride. McBride was fantastic in the home opener with clearing dangerous balls away as his teammates pushed forward. If the rookie, and his veteran CB partner McCarthy, can continue to be a safety net it will help allow their offense to get creative like we saw against Swope Park.
Official SAFC Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ford (c); Palacios, McCarthy, McBride, Cochrane; Thuriere, Reed; Garcia, Alvarez, Moseley; Johnson
(A note about projected starting XI’s is that they are mandated by USL to be included in the team-provided media guides. While a projection is required, sticking to that projection is not. We could see some changes when the time comes.)
Pitch Black Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ford (c); Palacios, McCarthy, McBride, Moseley; Reed, Castillo; Garcia, Alvarez, Cochrane; Johnson
After getting some rest at the beginning of the Los Dos match, I’d expect to see Rafa get the start again. He’s been an absolute engine on the field this season. Despite not tallying an assist or goal yet for his USL club, the former Scorpion has been crucial in ball movement and creating chances. He sat at the beginning of Los Dos giving way to Sebastien Thuriere, but an early yellow card limited the Haiti National Team player’s ability to challenge without risking being sent off. I expect Seba to be the next man off the bench as a holding midfielder or fullback, but Rafa has proven to be the hot hand so far this season.
At this point, I’d say its a coin flip on who plays forward and who plays back between Moseley and Cochrane. The Stoke city loanee took a small step backwards in his offensive play against Los Dos, but is still one of the most skilled players on the squad. I expect Cochrane to get the winger nod for Saturday, but that the positioning between the two can be fluid.
Score Prediction: OC Blues FC 0-2 San Antonio FC. The boys in white are due for a clean sheet. Ford is too good of a keeper with too good of a back four to not rack up the clean sheets this season. Barring a complete epiphany, Orange County should prove to be the weaker side on Saturday allowing the captain to earn his first clean sheet since week 1 in Seattle.
*note: An older version of this post had an incorrect Official SAFC Projected Starting XI and incorrect starting time*