No matter your profession, there comes a point when you just need a change of scenery to recharge your battery. For Rob Kiernan, that change of scenery took him from England’s Southend United to Southern California to join Orange County SC. “To be honest, I was very keen on Orange County after visiting last year,” Kiernan told BGN. “I came to see Harry Forrester whilst on my offseason and told him instantly that I want to be here and whether he could help make that possible which he certainly did.
“I was ready for a change in scenery from the UK, I wasn’t enjoying my football back home and wanted a fresh start somewhere that I could see my future for years to come.”
Long before he signed for OCSC, Kiernan came up through the Watford Academy. He made his debut with the first team under the tutelage of current Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers. He explained, “I honestly can’t speak highly enough of Brendan Rodgers, he gave (me) my debut as a young kid at Watford football club, he showed massive faith in me, and he made me feel 10x the player I was with his man-management skills.”
“He is so detailed in his training and tactical knowledge, I wish I could have spent a bit more time working under him. You can see the success he’s had as a manager and the way he nurtures young players.”
He would go on to play for other clubs across the English soccer pyramid like Wigan Athletic, Birmingham City, and Burton Albion. One of the constant questions among soccer fans here in the United States is how the U.S. soccer pyramid lines up with England’s. “I think the talent is definitely here, it’s how you then mold that talent to perform on a big stage week in, week out,” he said. “The consistency of a player is what will determine their careers. As a comparison to England, I’d say it’s (USL Championship) similar to the League One/Two level. It’s a slower game, due to the heat, but there are players in this team who could play in the leagues back home for sure.”
Another one of Kiernan’s career stops was with Rangers in the Scottish Premiership. He made more than 70 appearances for the club and now finds himself with a club that has a great working relationship with his former side. Danny Finlayson and Cammy Palmer are currently on loan with OC from the Scottish powerhouse. When asked if he’s taken on a mentorship role for the two loanees, Kiernan said, “Yeah it’s been great seeing them flourish, getting games, growing as humans. Being away from home and seeing a completely different side of the world.”
“We work on elements of the game and they’re eager to learn and impress which is great, but expected playing for a club like Rangers. I know the level of what’s expected and they certainly do, too. Just wish Danny would get a suntan whilst he’s here, think he’s paler than when he arrived!”
Expectations from the outside were high for Orange County SC entering the season and they haven’t disappointed, currently sitting second on the table in Group B and 10th on the USL Championship Power Rankings for Week 10. But, what were the expectations in the locker room for Kiernan & Company? “I expect to win every game. That’s just simple,” he said. “I want the boys at the back to keep clean sheets and I want the creative players to score goals and create havoc in the final third. I wouldn’t like to be chasing Darwin (Jones) as a defender that’s for sure!”
While he may not want to defend his talented teammates, Kiernan has done well against opposing attacking players thus far. He leads the club in clearances and aerial duels and is second in interceptions and blocked shots.
Kiernan’s first season in SoCal is obviously going well on the pitch and he’s enjoying life off the pitch, too, making the best of a bad situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. “Yeah I walked into the pandemic, timing wasn’t great for me. I entered the world of online soccer coaching and it’s been great for me,” he said. “I managed to use the time in lockdown for something beneficial. I’m loving life here and want to be here long term.”
While that will be music to the ears of Orange County supporters, there is a downside…Rob Kiernan thinks In-N-Out is overrated. In American fast food cuisine, he is a big fan of Chick-fil-A’s spicy chicken sandwich with extra pickles and Chick-fil-A sauce. He described it as something he’s never experienced before and “it’s the king of all kings”.
Next up on the menu for Orange County is a massive home matchup tomorrow night against LA Galaxy II. Kickoff at Championship Soccer Stadium is set for 7 PM PT with a loss bringing the clubs level on points and a win pushing OC’s advantage to six points.