As he considered his options for the next step in his professional career, there was one obvious choice for Milan Iloski last offseason.
In signing with Orange County SC, he’d not only be returning to his native California and get the chance to play again with elder brother Brian but become part of a club with the quality and experience that would help him fulfill his potential.
“It made sense for me to come to Orange County for a multitude of reasons,” said Iloski this week. “Obviously, the main one is the opportunity to play with Brian, that’s something that is special to me, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to do it.
“The other reasons all speak for themselves. The location, having grown up so close by, is incredible. The consistent family time has been something I haven’t had since I was back in high school, so that’s been a joy. Another main reason is because of the club and being able to play with certain guys that I knew coming in I could learn from. Guys like Cubo [Torres], Michael [Orozco], Rob [Kiernan], experienced guys that played all over the world who hold me to the standard that I hold myself to.”
Clearly, the move has paid off. Currently the USL Championship’s Golden Boot leader, Iloski was on Thursday named the league’s Player of the Month for July presented by Konami eFootball as his six goals and two assists – averaging a goal every 73.5 minutes – continued an outstanding season so far for the defending Championship title holders.
Milan Iloski's 16 goals this season for Orange County SC currently lead the Championship Golden Boot race with two months of the regular season remaining. | Photo courtest Liza Rosales / Orange County SC
Iloski is no stranger to scoring success in Southern California. He previously competed with Brian and younger brother Eric at UCLA, where over three seasons he recorded 23 goals and six assists in 46 appearances for the Bruins before joining Real Salt Lake as a Homegrown Player before the 2020 Major League Soccer season.
The 23-year-old showed flashes of what he was capable of on loan with Real Monarchs SLC, but this year has broken out with a league-high 16 goals so far this season. Among those are seven goals from outside the penalty area, a sign of the confidence that Iloski has played with over the course of the season so far.
“It’s been great so far for me individually,” said Iloski of his season. “I feel like I finally found a rhythm and a consistent run of games that I didn’t have while in MLS at Real Salt Lake. I found a role here on this team and it is nice to see the hard work paying off and to be able to play consistent minutes again.”
With the season he’s having, Iloski could also be in the right place in the bigger picture as well. With Orange County’s established reputation as a launching point for players – seen most recently with a USL Championship-record transfer of United States U-20 international Kobi Henry to Ligue 1 club Stade de Reims in France – the chance to jump across the Atlantic Ocean could also be present for the former U.S. youth international.
If that opportunity arrives, Iloski would certainly welcome it – “competing in Europe has always been a dream of mine since I was a young kid,” he said – but continuing his success and helping Orange County drive forward over the rest of the current campaign is still front and center for his attention right now.
“I’m going day by day and enjoying the moment. It has been a fun year for me to get back to loving the game again,” said Iloski. “If Europe opens up and the right opportunity is there then I’d love the opportunity, but for now, I’m focused on the next match and trying to help Orange County win games and be successful on the field and off the field.”
Iloski received 38 percent of a weighted poll that included the USL Championship Technical Committee, a national panel of independent media representing every USL market and an online fan vote held at USLChampionship.com. The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Leo Fernandes finished second on 33 percent after a second consecutive standout month that saw him record five goals and two assists for the two-time defending Eastern Conference title holders, while Phoenix Rising FC goalkeeper Ben Lundt finished third after recording 27 saves, four shutouts, and a save percentage of 84.4 percent.
|Nominee||Fan Vote||Weight||Media Vote||Weight||USL Vote||Weight||Overall Weighted Vote|
|Milan Iloski (OC)||8%||4%||69%||17%||71%||18%||38%|
|Leo Fernandes (TBR)||58%||30%||0%||0%||14%||4%||33%|
|Ben Lundt (PHX)||11%||6%||25%||6%||14%||4%||15%|
|Brian Ownby (LOU)||19%||10%||6%||2%||0%||0%||11%|
|Hadji Barry (COS)||4%||2%||0%||0%||0%||0%||2%|