When Orange County SC elected to make a coaching change just past the midway point of the 2021 regular season, the prospect it would not only advance to the USL Championship Final for the first time in its 11-season history but lift the title seemed remote. And yet, the confluence of a lockdown defense and a star turn in the postseason by forward Ronaldo Damus provided Head Coach Richard Chaplow’s side with a remarkable run that saw OCSC claim the first silverware in its history last November.
Now the defending title holders will get to try and replicate the level of consistency they showed late in the regular season over a full campaign as Chaplow takes the reins after having his interim tag removed. There has been regular-season success in the past for the club – the team finished on top of the Western Conference in 2015 and 2018 previously before suffering postseason disappointment – and the returning core including captain Michael Orozco, Championship Final heroes Damus and goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky, and veterans Brent Richards, Seth Casiple and Brian Iloski make up for a strong base.
Orange County also added the biggest name of the offseason with 29-year-old Erick “Cubo” Torres joining the club. The former Mexico international brings more than 250 appearances of experience in the professional ranks with him, as well as 66 goals and 26 assists across all competitions, which should provide Damus with plenty of help in the attacking third. As Torres grabs the headlines, though, he could have to share it with three intriguing prospects aged 18 and under. Orange County’s 17-year-old Kobi Henry is coming off his first call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team, 16-year-old midfielder Francis Jacobs is looking to take his next steps forward, and 18-year-old forward Oluwakorede Osundina has joined the club from the Barca Residency Academy in Arizona.
Erick “Cubo” Torres – Former Mexico international will look to grab spotlight after lean stint in Atlanta
Danilo Acosta – Honduran international makes move across town after competing for LA Galaxy
Kevin Partida – Former Championship All-League selection will fortify center of midfield
Milan Iloski – Young attacking player joins elder brother Brian at Championship Soccer Stadium
Kevin Alston – Veteran defender entered free agency after recording 22 appearances a season ago
Eric Calvillo – El Salvador international signed with El Paso Locomotive FC after conclusion of loan from San Jose
Dillon Powers – Experienced mid-season arrival signed with Northern Ireland club Glentoran
Nathan Smith – Fullback headed north to join League One expansion side Central Valley Fuego FC
Ronaldo Damus, Forward
If there was any question as to whether Ronaldo Damus would be able to handle the step up from USL League One to the USL Championship, the Haitian international answered them emphatically in his first year at Orange County SC. Last year’s Championship Final MVP, Damus could now be close to the point of something big individually after racking up 18 goals across the regular season and playoffs a season ago, including two in the Championship Final. The 22-year-old has now recorded 39 goals in 66 appearances over three seasons in the USL’s two professional tiers and could become a target for a European club sooner rather than later.
Erick Torres, Forward
The USL Championship has seen some world-class players compete in the league in the past, and this season you can add Erick “Cubo” Torres to that list. The former Mexico international was Orange County’s signature signing of the offseason and is the biggest new name in the league for the 2022 campaign as he heads west looking to add more scoring punch for the defending title holders. Still only 29 years old, Torres most recently played for Atlanta United FC in Major League Soccer and has recorded 37 goals in 126 appearances in the U.S. top flight as well as 19 goals in 94 appearances in Liga MX’s regular season. Joining Damus and the other attacking pieces – including Milan Iloski joining elder brother Brian at the club – Torres could be a game-changer for OCSC on and off the field.
Richard Chaplow (2nd Season)
Promoted midseason as the club’s interim Head Coach, Richard Chaplow will enter his first full season at the helm of Orange County SC after guiding its first league title from the sidelines last fall. The 37-year-old will enter his seventh season overall at the club, however, having played for three seasons for Orange County before joining the coaching staff in 2019 after moving across the Atlantic from his native England.
3,297 Former United States international Michael Orozco logged the most minutes of any player in the USL Championship across the regular season and playoffs in 2021, missing only three minutes of action to reach 3,297 minutes of play on the way to captaining his side to victory in the Championship Final against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.