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?

 

 

 

 

Winds FC top Strikers FC South Coast in Cal South State Cup

Santa Ana Winds FC topped fellow UPSL club Strikers South Coast in non-league play at Lake Forest Sports Park on Tuesday night, April 25. The match closed the third round of group play in the Cal South Adult State Cup, a qualifying tournament to the USASA National Cup.

Santa Ana fell behind early in the match on a breakaway, which Strikers took effective advantage of in the 7th minute. “We tend to give up an early goal, but then we settle in and take control gradually,” said Winds FC owner Leonel López. And take control they did, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the first half, to gradually grind and chip away, ending the first half 2-1 on a header by Andy Guerra.


Winds FC were noticeably the better side in terms of ball control and dictating the pace of the match, but as is common, with more possession come more passes and a higher probability of imprecisions. Strikers took advantage of the openings they were given, making quick work of them. Winds FC continued to generate, in spite of their imprecisions leading to Strikers’ goals, by playing to their individual strengths. The Santa Ana midfield and backline consist of players able to create their own space to retain possession, and this is a common trait of nearly all their individual players.

Striker Anthony Saldana dropped back into midfield to aide on Strikers attacks, displaying a versatility beyond his attacking role, while too generating space for himself going forward and achieving a high passing rate.

Winds FC’s José Gómez tied things up in the 64th minute. The club showed an uptick in form after subbing in winger Omar Pérez, who created extra danger on the flanks. Santa Ana finally went ahead in the 72nd minute on a goal by Anthony Saldana.

Santa Ana Winds FC have struggled to defeat Strikers South Coast in games past, but the club has managed to rebuild and gel with players from the reputable Santa Ana College Dons program. The win leaves observers identifying Winds FC as a candidate to finish atop their conference, in which they currently sit 2nd behind Strikers in goal differential, ironically.

The win over Strikers FC South Coast is the latest feather in the Winds FC cap with recent wins over top UPSL sides La Máquina (January 24), LA Wolves (February 18), and Ozzy’s Laguna (April 16). Their last win over LA Highlanders at Valley Falcons Stadium at the SAUSD Sports Complex on April 22, was neither an easy task.

Winds FC finished the Cal South Adult State Cup Group A with two wins, over Real Sociedad Royals and Strikers SC, and a loss at San Nicolás SC of Santa Barbara.

Next match: Santa Ana Winds FC at San Fernando Valley Scorpions FC, April 29 at 6:00 pm. Venue TBA.

U.S. Open Cup Qualifying Review: La Máquina vs Santa Ana Winds FC

Sunday’s 2017 U.S. Open Cup qualifying match between Santa Ana clubs La Máquina and Winds FC, both of the United Premier Soccer League, came down to capitalizing on scoring opportunities, of which both sides had plenty. La Máquina took advantage of three “soft goal” opportunities given by Winds FC, with a final score of 3-0. The story of the night for Winds FC was failing to score on clear scoring opportunities, of which they had at least 4.

The difference was set in the first half with La Máquina scoring off of two failed clearances by the Winds defense, first in the 8th minute on a goal by Edwin Borboa and then in the 18th on a shot from distance by José “Chila” Montes de Oca. The Winds FC game plan was to attack up the flanks, with which they did manage to generate some danger but ultimately no goal, and to shut down La Máquina’s midfield commandeered by the Castro Pérez brothers (José and Rosendo), both with Liga de Ascenso experience with Club Dorados de Sinaloa.

The third goal came in the 86th minute, “Chila’s” second of the night, with Winds FC playing with 10 men after a hamstring injury to a midfielder. Ironically, La Máquina scored when Winds FC made it easiest for them to do so, something good teams like La Máquina take advantage of. Overall, La Máquina created more dangerous shots on goal and crosses, and hit the post twice.

U.S. Open Cup 2017 Preview: Santa Ana Winds FC vs La Habra City FC

United Premier Soccer League members Santa Ana Winds FC and La Habra City FC will face off in a qualifying match to the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup on Sunday, September 18 at Colton High School Stadium in Colton, CA at 6:30 pm.

Santa Ana currently sits in fourth place with a 5-2-1 record in the UPSL Southeast Conference, behind reputable sides La Máquina FC and Strikers FC South Coast, in addition to upstart Avalanche FC, which has taken the UPSL by storm.

Another upstart, La Habra City FC, currently sits in sixth place in the UPSL Western Conference with a 1-2-2 record. La Habra’s coach, Cesar Reyes, is well-familiarized with Winds FC having coached the Santa Ana side prior to starting up La Habra City. Reyes’s familiarity with Winds FC may be an advantage for him and his club.

But Santa Ana Winds FC, though exposed to have defensive deficiencies, have a potent offense having scored 37 goals in 8 games. That’s one more goal than La Máquina FC has scored on the same conference opposition that Santa Ana has faced, and four more than UPSL expansion club and sensation Avalanche FC has, versus the same conference. Nevertheless, Winds FC will have to improve vastly on defense, regardless of their offensive capabilities, if they want to make a name for themselves in the Open Cup the way other UPSL clubs La Máquina & LA Wolves did in the 2016 Open Cup.

Winds FC is considered the “home side,” given that this match was originally scheduled to be played at Lake Forest Sports Park, but the field became unavailable, according to club owner Leonel López. The Santa Ana side, still continues to struggle to get fields in Santa Ana, citing politics involving other leagues in town. For instance, while Winds FC had to schedule a match 47 miles away in Colton, another club calling Santa Ana home, “L.A. Laguna” of the Premier Development League, aka “Ozzy’s Laguna,” for UPSL and youth league purposes, will play an Open Cup qualifier at Santa Ana Stadium vs UPSL club OC Crew on September 17.