With the kickoff of the new USL Championship season less than 24 hours away, a big question remains for Orange County SC’s roster: Who will be the number one keeper for a team that has championship aspirations? With literally zero experience on the roster heading into the team’s first match in Reno, pressure will be on a defense with questions of their own.
As of this writing, County has just two keepers on the roster, 17-year-old Aaron Cervantes, and 22-year-old Carlos Lopez Cortez, who the club just signed from Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente. Between the two of them, they have just 3 appearances (Cortez in 2017 while on loan with Dorados). The lack of an experienced keeper has concerned some fans, given their hopes of the team lifting the USL cup in November.
The concern is not the talent of both Cervantes and Cortez, but instead the inexperience of the the two keepers. Neither has played a big role as a starter on a team with championship expectations. Cervantes, who was on the OC roster in 2018, has never started a meaningful professional match. He has shown glimpses of his potential in the pre-season, but has also shown some mistakes. The mistakes are not unexpected, but can be concerning come tomorrow when the wins and losses count. Cortez has had a solid pre-season, which earned him a spot on the roster. Although he has more experience than Cervantes in meaningful games, it is still very limited.
As the season has inches closer, fans have been hoping for an announcement from the club about a loan from the MLS. Some were even hoping for a return of Andre Rawls, who quickly became a fan favorite last season while on loan from MLS side NYCFC. When his option was not picked up in November, it offered hope of a return, but when he was picked up by Colorado Rapids in the re-entry draft, those hopes quickly vanished.
There is still a possibility that the club will find a proven keeper in the coming weeks. If they do, it will more than likely be a loan from an MLS club looking to give a keeper some playing time, as the club has hinted. Until that happens, Orange County’s championship hopes will rest on the shoulders of one or both of their young keepers looking to make a name for themselves. The hope, for both the club and fans, is that one of two make the most of this opportunity, and has a breakout season. Come October, we will know if this risk was worth it or not.
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