Lofty Goals for Orange County as Team Begins Prep for 2020 Season
The Orange County Soccer Club could not wait to get its 2020 training camp started. Literally.
Yes, there was tremendous excitement, anticipation and energy Wednesday morning at Great Park, as the team took to the pitch for the first official session of preseason camp.
But the early kickoff to camp - in fact, the earliest start date in team history - was arranged by design.
"This year, we wanted to start earlier, which we are," said head coach Braeden Cloutier, entering his third season at the helm. "We wanted to have games, a really good, balanced preseason schedule with MLS games, that prepare us for the regular season. Everything we've learned, and getting them in earlier this year, I think this is the year that we put everything together and our goal is to win a USL Championship."
In previous seasons, training camp did not begin until early February, but Cloutier and the team's brain trust determined that with an earlier start to camp, not only would the players be in a better physical and mental condition for the March 6 regular-season opener against El Paso, it would better align their preseason timeline with MLS' preseason, allowing Orange County to schedule three MLS matchups in early February to kick off their eight-game preseason slate.
"We know those games are highly important to us, so now we can get ourselves in the right frame of mind and be physically fit," Cloutier said.
The early start to camp also affords the young emerging stars on the roster -- particularly 17-year-old goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes and forward Diego Lopez and 14-year-old midfielder Francis Jacobs -- greater amount of time to continue to develop and mesh with their veteran teammates.
"We have a lot of younger players and this is a great opportunity for them to play games in the preseason and really show where they're at," Cloutier said. "Francis has grown leaps and bounds in the past 6-8 months, and now it's an opportunity to see how he can handle the men's game."
OCSC has been a playoff fixture the past five years, finishing first in the Western Conference twice and advancing to the conference finals once. But with some exciting new additions from overseas, a reunion with a former goal-scoring hero and a renewed determination to succeed, the goals for 2020 are as high as ever: To capture the franchise's first USL Cup.
"The biggest thing is, the last two years, we've learned a lot," Cloutier said. "The goal is to win a championship and that message is sent out on Day 1. We need to do our best from Day 1, set the tone, and everyone, from top to bottom, the goal is to win a championship. That message is definitely going to come across."
The team will take the field for preseason practices and games with a bit of a new look this season. The team entered a partnership this offseason with the Rangers FC of the Scottish League, and a handful of Rangers players and coaches will integrate with returning OCSC veterans - no fewer than 13 players on the 2019 team had re-signed for 2020 as of last Friday - will be part of the roster going forward.
"We have the same first class coaching staff a year more experienced and the return of our core players along with our talented youth internationals that we expect to contribute this season. On top of that, we will add multiple talented [Rangers] and experienced players, including Thomas Evenoldsen, our leading goal scorer two years ago," said President of Soccer Operations Oliver Wyss. "This is a very exciting time and I'm very much looking forward to starting preseason and seeing our team evolve in the next few weeks into one that our fans can be proud of on opening night!"
Training camp will last 10 days before OCSC begins playing a set of eight exhibition games in February in advance of the regular-season opener Friday, March 6 against El Paso Locomotive FC at Great Park. The first three games will be against MLS teams, Colorado Rapids, NYCFC and Chicago Fire.
OCSC will play four exhibitions at home, beginning with their match against the Fire on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at noon at Great Park.
Other home matches include the University of San Diego on Saturday, Feb. 15, Galaxy II of the USL on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 11:30 a.m. and Friday, Feb. 28 vs. Las Vegas.
Feb 1 vs Colorado Rapids @ Cal St Fullerton 10am kickoff
Feb 4 vs NYCFC @ Cal St Long Beach 1pm kickoff
Feb 8 vs LMU @ LMU 11am kickoff
Feb 12 vs Chicago Fire @ Great Park 12pm kickoff
Feb 15 vs USD @ Great Park 11:30am kickoff
Feb 22 vs Cal St Fullerton @ CS Fullerton 10:30am kickoff
Feb 25 vs LA Galaxy II @ Great Park 11:30am kickoff
Feb 28 vs Las Vegas Lights FC @ Great Park 7pm kickoff
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