The Los Angeles Area USASA Top 10

UPDATE: FC Golden State has been removed from the top 10 and FC Long Beach has been included at number 10. More details on this club below.

Previously

This is the first attempt to rank USASA teams in the LA area, that I know of. This ranking measures, especially, team performance across the affiliated USASA leagues (NPSL, PDL, UPSL, SoCal Premier, etc). More weight is given to clubs playing beyond their league conferences, for example. Simply put, with more success outside of league play, comes more merit. Sounds reasonable, right? I don’t think it’s that hard to comprehend.


Criteria

  1. First off, my metric encompasses clubs throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, made up of its counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino, Ventura.
  2. Results against clubs in the area, regardless of league, are especially favored.
  3. Clubs competing in cups beyond their league, and winning in those cups, are also weighted favorably.

Clarification

I’m going to lay this down once, to eliminate misperceptions in the future. I don’t subscribe to the notion that the NPSL is a better league, in general, nor by default. The NPSL has improved greatly in presentation and perception off the field, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to on-field success. I’ll give you two or three examples of how NPSL clubs haven’t delivered on the field.

The NPSL’s Sacramento Gold fell to La Máquina of the UPSL in last year’s Open Cup. Prior to that match, the Gold went on TV in Sacramento saying that they were going to come down here to win. Fast forward to Open Cup 2017 qualifying and the NPSL’s Orange County FC fell to “La Machina” [sic], on September 17, 2016.

OCFC got a “rematch” in February, and lost that too.

So what? Why do I make a big deal about this? To not assume that teams in a startup league like the UPSL, or any league, are inferior by default. This is too common a characteristic in American soccer and among its fans, even front offices.

The Top 10, Defined

1. Moreno Valley FC is the defending USASA Region IV Champion. This means they’re the best California team outside of the professional leagues (USSF divisions 1-3, do not confuse this to be anything other), and they’ve demonstrated it in the State Cup. Last year they defeated LA Wolves, the club that defeated the USL’s OC Blues, later-rebranded-as Orange County SC in last year’s Open Cup. Performance is telling, and especially against other regional standouts. “Mo Val” recently defended their state title successfully versus UPSL standout Santa Ana Winds FC in Norco, and they have another title defense coming up against Eric Wynalda’s L.A. Wolves.

2. L.A. Wolves have done some significant revamping since last year’s Open Cup exit versus Santa Ana’s La Máquina. They’ve brought on Eric Wynalda as head coach, perform consistently well in the UPSL, and are alive in two other competitions, the State Cup and the Open Cup. They have a chance to eliminate the sitting State Champion in Moreno Valley, and the have a chance to advance in the Open Cup versus San Diego Zest of the PDL.

3. La Máquina currently sits in third in the UPSL, and also has had a lot on their plate recently. They’re still alive in the Open Cup, and will travel to face Fresno Fuego at Chukchansi Park. They’re no strangers to travelling to face PDL teams. Last year, La Máquina eliminated Portland Timbers PDL, in Oregon. La Máquina was recently eliminated from the State Cup vs San Nicolás SC of Santa Barbara, by a score of 1-0.

4. Santa Ana Winds FC sit in 2nd in the UPSL and are having a turnaround season, having rebuilt their club with players from the reputable Santa Ana College Dons program. Winds FC won a 2017 Open Cup qualifying match over La Habra City, before being eliminated in the 2nd qualifying round by La Máquina. Santa Ana managed to grind out wins in the State Cup, including a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad Royals of the SoCal Premier League, and a momentous 3-2 comeback over UPSL leader Strikers South Coast. Their creative individual skills were not enough to best regional powerhouse Moreno Valley FC in the State Cup quarterfinals.

5. Real Sociedad Royals are 2nd in the SoCal Premier League, and like in-league club Outbreak SC, are accustomed to competing in extra-league tournaments. They’ve won Open Cup qualifiers in the past, and topped the best team in the UPSL in Strikers South Coast, effectively eliminating them from the State Cup. The only thing keeping them from being ranked higher than Winds FC is their loss to the Santa Ana side in the group stage of the State Cup. The Royals were eliminated from 2017 Open Cup qualifying by L.A. Wolves, 4-1.

6. Outbreak SC sits in 3rd in the SoCal Premier League, and has an upcoming Open Cup match against FC Golden State Force of the PDL on May 10. Outbreak qualified for the Open Cup by defeating in-league Buena Park FC and San Fernando Valley Scorpions of the UPSL.

7. Strikers FC South Coast, while at the top of the UPSL with goal differential, the Strikers fell twice in the group stage of the State Cup. In one loss the club blew a 2-0 lead to Winds FC, who exposed them by taking control of possession, and turning the game in their favor 3-2. Strikers fell to Real Sociedad by the same score, finishing last in the State Cup group stage, but did edge out Santa Barbara club San Nicolás in the State Cup, in which the latter is a semifinalist.

8. Riverside Coras are dominating the NPSL Southwest Conference, which includes conference leaders OCFC and FC Arizona. Surprisingly, to this writer, the NPSL Southwest is the only competition Coras are participating in. Coras had a UPSL squad, and nave focused on the NPSL, which is the right thing to do in my book, but are absent of the Open Cup and the State Cup (more on this later).

9. Orange County FC is having an impressive debut season in the NPSL, sitting 2nd behind Coras. The Irvine club has a chance to bump Riverside out of 1st, in their upcoming match, which will reveal who’s the best in the NPSL SW. OCFC is undefeated and features ex-Máquina player José “Chila” Montes and ex-Sueño MLS Winner Armando “Mambo” Flores of Santa Ana, CA, among others. OCFC lost an Open Cup qualifier to La Máquina, of Santa Ana, in September 2016, and a rematch in February 2017.

10. FC Long Beach is a semifinalist in the State Cup and has won 3 matches in that tournament, in which they defeated Los Angeles United Soccer Club, of the L.A. Premier League, along with Chula Vista and Newhall Premier, but were pummeled by L.A. Wolves, which is revealing. They have an upcoming match with San Nicolás SC. FC Long Beach appears to be a non-league club, described as the men’s club of the Long Beach Youth Soccer Association. Due to this fact there’s no telling how this club would fare in leagues like the UPSL, NPSL, or the SoCal Premier’s first division. Their only measure against a UPSL club is an 8-0 loss to L.A. Wolves.

Closing thoughts

As a fan, I argue that more interleague play, outside of Open Cup one-offs and the like, are a necessary part of “growing the game,” which every league and club claims to want to do. It’s a win-win when leagues and clubs cooperate. Maybe there should be an invitational for LA area clubs. Anyway, whether observers agree with my assessment or not, USASA clubs in the LA area need prodding to produce even better matchups. The UPSL and the NPSL are consolidating and forming top clubs in the LA area. The NPSL Southwest Conference has improved greatly with its recent expansion teams. The So Cal Premier’s best will always be there pecking at the top.

Remember, before you blow a gasket, rankings are never stagnant. As boxing referee Mills Lane used to say, “Let’s get it on.”

What do you say? What’s your top ten? Do you hate me yet?

 

 

 

 

Santa Ana on the National Soccer Stage

There have been some soccer players over the decades that were either born in, developed in, or played in Santa Ana that went on to win championships on a national level. There is also the case of the Santa Ana College Dons, that as a unit was an overachiever first under coach J.P. Frutos, then coached by former Chivas de Guadalajara, Atlas, Celaya, L.A. Salsa, Orange County Zodiac and L.A. Galaxy player José Vásquez.

Santa Ana in the Los Angeles Aztecs

We’ll begin with José López, who was born in Mexicali in 1951 but grew up in Santa Ana and played soccer at Santa Ana Valley High School. He went on to captain UCLA soccer and was drafted to the inaugural Los Angeles Aztecs squad in 1974. López and the Aztecs won the North American Soccer League Championship that same year.

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L.A. Aztecs No. 15, José López of Santa Ana. Photo source: nasljerseys.com

Reign of the Dons 

The Santa Ana College Dons started dominating the Orange Empire Conference in 1976, winning the conference 26 times. The Dons dominated consecutively from 1976-78, and most impressively, consecutively, from 1994-2011. And the 80s? They owned that too: ’83, ’84, ’86, ’87, and ’88. The Dons became a force at the state level in California, winning seven state championships, and two national championships within this time frame. So what’s the moral of the story, coupled with a word to the wise? There’s tremendous soccer potential in Santa Ana.

The Dons are still coached by LA Galaxy record holder José Vásquez, who is credited with one trophy, the 1998 Supporters’ Shield, with the Galaxy.

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Galaxy record holder José Vásquez, coach of the Santa Ana College Dons. Photo source: LA Galaxy Star Map

Mater Dei’s Robbie Rogers

Mater Dei High School, a private Catholic school, was established in Santa Ana in 1950. It has a reputation for having good American football teams, and has two national championships to its name in that sport, but one of its former players went on to win two MLS Championships in 2008 with the Columbus Crew and in 2014 with the LA Galaxy. That player is Robbie Rogers.

Now, Rogers and some others like him tend to say things like, “I went to school in Orange County,” and aren’t as specific by saying, “I went to school in Santa Ana,” (because the Santa Ana name is still taboo in some people’s heads) but we’ll forgive him and count him as a win for Santa Ana. Granted, Mater Dei isn’t part of the Santa Ana Unified School District and they don’t even compete with Santa Ana schools, but they have the luck of playing at Santa Ana Stadium and are lucky to call Santa Ana home.

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Robbie Rogers, of Huntington Beach, played at Mater Dei High School, in Santa Ana. Photo source: LA Galaxy Star Map

Sueño: A Dream Forged in Santa Ana

A kid named Jorge Flores, who later changed his surname to Villafaña in honor of his mother, grew up playing soccer in a Santa Ana youth league, with the club Santa Ana Juventus DSP. This kid had a dream of playing pro soccer and tried his luck with the first-ever Sueño MLS tryout, which he went on to win, eventually earning a spot on the Chivas USA Academy then first team, before being moved to MLS’s Portland Timbers. Villafaña culminated his MLS career in 2015 with a championship and then moved on to broader horizons with Club Santos Laguna in Mexico, in a league he dreamed of playing in.

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Jorge Villafaña (right) at Santa Ana Stadium. Photo by Omar Ávalos Gallegos.

 

The Contenders

There are contenders to these made champions listed above. There was another Sueño MLS winner from Santa Ana named Armando Flores, now playing at Cal State Bakersfield.

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The Second Sueño MLS Winner from Santa Ana: Armando Flores

 

Kevin Huezo played for the CF Pachuca Academy in Mexico and currently plays and fights for minutes at Murciélagos FC of the Ascenso MX division in Mexico.

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Kevin Huezo of Santa Ana (2nd from the left, first row).

 

Daniel Antúnez trotted the globe playing soccer before signing with MLS and Chivas USA. Antúnez suffered a knee injury that ended his MLS career before he got back to playing with club Arizona United of the United Soccer League. Here’s a rare interview with Antúnez, who played in Finland, Brazil and Mexico before coming back to the States.

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Globetrotting Footballer Daniel Antúnez, of Santa Ana. Photo source: SB Nation

Special mention goes to Minnesota United striker Christian Ramírez, who was born in Santa Ana and developed his game in the neighboring cities of Garden Grove and Irvine. Ramírez played college ball nearby before signing with Minnesota United of the North American Soccer League, where he won a 2014 Golden Boot, 2014 Player of the Year, and NASL Best XI in 2014 and 2015.

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Minnesota United Striker Christian Ramírez, Born in Santa Ana. Photo source: NASL.com

 

 

Armando Flores of Santa Ana Travels with Chivas to Vancouver

Update: Santa Ana’s Armando Flores and the Chivas USA Reserves came back from a 3-0 deficit in Vancouver to leave things tied 3-3. Flores played 70 minutes before being substituted off for Brian Kennedy.

Armando Flores of Santa Ana Valley High School, a Sueño MLS Winner, has been invited to join the Chivas USA reserve team as they head to Vancouver, British Columbia to take on the Whitecaps in Major League Soccer Reserve League play today at 11 am.

Live game updates will be available on twitter @cdchivasusa.

“Mambo” Flores will join other Chivas USA players with first team experience. The joining of Chivas Academy players with Chivas Reserves is part of a professional development process. The Reserve league is the link between the Academy and the First Team.

A game recap will be posted this afternoon.

https://twitter.com/cdchivasusa/status/342335228746027008

Armando Flores Nets Another

CD Chivas USA informs:

It was a positive weekend for Chivas USA’s U15/16, U17/18 and U14 teams. All three Red-and-White youth teams were able to earn huge victories, extending their respective unbeaten streaks.

In USSDA…

Chivas USA’s U15/16 team took a 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake AZ U15/16 on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College. A hat trick by Jorge Ruiz and a single goal by Ryo Fujii gave the young Goats the ultimate win. Ruiz was able to open the scoreboard in the 8th minute of the match. RSL AZ came back a two minutes later and notched the equalizer for the Arizona team.

Before halftime, Ruiz scored his second of the match and Fujii notched his own. Ruiz came back into the second half and scored early on, but it was not enough for the Goats’ rival. With this weekend’s hat trick, Ruiz has scored 16 goals with the U15/16’s in the 2012/2013 season and at least one goal per game since March 16.

After Saturday’s victory, Chivas USA’s U15/16 team stands firm in first place of the Southwest Division in U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy. The young Goats have also moved up in the playoff berths; the U15/16 moved up two spots to number six, being the team with the top seed in the Western Conference.

Also securing their spot in the USSDA playoffs is Chivas USA’s U17/18 squad. On Saturday, the Red-and-White Academy team earned a 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake AZ U17/18 team. Unsurprisingly, Caleb Calvert, who joined the First Team for training last week, notched the first goal for the Goats, followed by two more goals by SueñoMLS winner Armando Flores and Mario Ortiz. The U17/18 team currently sits in fifth place of the Southwest Division but is securing a spot in the wildcard pool for the USSDA playoffs as the 11th team.

Up next, Chivas USA’s U15/16 & U17/18 teams will match-up against Real So Cal on Saturday, May 11 at Mt. San Antonio College.

Armando Flores & Chivas USA at OCC this Saturday

Santa Ana’s Sueño MLS Winner Armando Flores returns to the greater Santa Ana area this Saturday in a game pitting the Chivas USA Under 17/18 Youth team against the Irvine Strikers U17/18s at Orange Coast College at 10 am.

The Chivas USA U17/18s currently sit in 6th place in the West Conference of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy League with a record of 10-8-5 (W-L-T).

Later that day at 12:30

The Chivas USA U15/16s face the Irvine Strikers U15/16s also at OCC. Chivas USA’s U15/16s are in first place in the West Conference of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy League with a record of 15-3-5.