United look to continue unblemished start against Orange County


The first two weeks of the season have been great for the Black & Yellow. In week one they got a clean sheet against what is turning out to be a better than expected Las Vegas Lights. In week two, the good guys decided to shut down the home unbeaten streak of El Paso Locomotive. Which for some reason prompted another podcast to call United ‘inferior’ and insinuated that United was attempting to cause a stop and start flow to the match. At best, it’s the pot calling the kettle black. At worst, it’s lazy “journalism”.

This came from a media outlet that seems to have no problem when their local clubs are guilty of the same thing. Or things like this:

Or there was the time Yuma pretended to be a fish:

But hey, what do I know? It’s not like our club is sitting at the top of the conference with a 2-0-0 record while theirs is 0-3-0 early in the season.

Western Conference Table 3/6/22

There’s nothing inferior about playing out of possession. There’s nothing inferior about playing on the counter. There’s nothing inferior about our players or Zach Prince’s system. The only thing that’s inferior is the mindset of those that are unable to come to terms with the fact that over the course of 90 minutes, United made adjustments and took advantage of the opportunities they had to score.

El Paso didn’t do that.

Live look at El Paso Locomotive FC

All of that is a roundabout way of getting us to this weekend’s match. For the first time since 2019, United faces off against Orange County SC, who comes in as the defending USL Champions. Because of the gap in between meetings, there isn’t really a head-to-head history to go off of when trying to predict this match. Of course, we all know that last season United was able to secure the return of fan-favorite Chris Wehan from OCSC and that move made a drastic change in the club’s trajectory.

Through two matches, OCSC hasn’t found their groove. That’s not to say that they aren’t a talented club, but it’s a different club from the one that won the Championship just a few short months ago. Gone is Ronaldo Damus, their leading scoring from 2021. Other pieces have moved on as well. Now, they are looking to rely on the returning Sean Okoli and newcomer Erick “Cubo” Torres to pick up the slack. Okoli was last with Austin Bold and Torres with Atlanta United. Neither of them was a consistent scoring threat and will have to find ways to get themselves involved in the final third.

OCSC’s strength lies in their midfield where players like Seth Casiplie and Brian Iloski have shown that they are more than capable of controlling the pace of play and creating openings for their forwards. It remains to be seen just what the new roster for the defending champs will turn into, but they still have a long way to go from the two matches so far.

FiveThirtyEight Prediction

United meanwhile has shown a comfort level with a completely different playstyle than what we’ve seen in the past. Through two matches, United has averaged 37% possession, which is a far cry from how they played in the past. One of the things that Zach Prince has said is that they had to be better in transition and taking what their opponents give them. As a result of that, United has actually looked good playing off the counter and going more vertical. It’s also allowed them to take advantage of opponent errors.

Like the two mistakes by Evan Newton that directly led to goals last weekend.

Some early-season injuries have been a concern for the club this year. Sergio Rivas, Josh Suggs, Kalen Ryden, and Austin Yearwood have all missed time so far. Those injuries have opened up opportunities for Alexis Souahy and Rashid Tetteh to step in and they played well against El Paso. If the injuries continue to linger, there’s a chance that newcomer Raddy Ovouka could get his first start against OCSC. The Hearts of Oak loanee has yet to appear for United, but arriving the last week of preseason will make that happen. Prince told us that once he’s up to speed and better acclimated to the elevation here that he will have plenty of opportunities to shine.

Prediction

2-0 United. Despite Torres being an MLS caliber talent, OCSC will have some growing pains to deal with as they try to retool their roster coming off of the championship season. The Lab is a tough place to play and United has always played well on their home pitch.

Saturday’s match is scheduled for a 4 p.m. MT kickoff from The Lab. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+ domestically and on YouTube for international viewers. The match will also be carried live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM.