The Orlando City SC men’s U-16 and U-18 youth teams headed to Lakewood Ranch, near Bradenton, Florida this past week to compete in the Academy Showcase. The showcase is a massive event featuring all of the country’s top youth teams and talent. The young Lions had a fantastic week, showing up their competition.
Orlando City took on the Colorado Rapids U-18 team in the first match of the weekend. The Rapids scored a 32nd minute goal to take the lead going into the half. Carlos Cuevas evened the game out at one apiece on a 55th minute goal. The Rapids took the lead back with a goal in the 60th minute. With City trailing very late in the game, Aidan Wixted -- a recent recall to the U.S. U-18 Men's National Team -- tallied in the 79th minute to make it 2-2. City, showing no quit, finally took the lead on an 88th minute Jaiden Fortune score.
Against the Chivas USA U-18 team, the scoring started early for City on a 3rd minute goal by Cuevas. David Lopez doubled the lead for the Lions in the 25th minute. Benjamin Michel made it 3-0 in the 45th minute, then scored again in the 57th minute. Chivas managed a late goal on the Lions defense to make it a 4-1 final in favor of Orlando City.
Orlando City wrapped up the weekend against Sockers FC. The strong Sockers FC side jumped out to a 1-0 lead but Orlando City stormed back with two goals to take home a 2-1 victory and complete a 3-0 weekend, with two come-from-behind victories.
The U-16 team also had a very busy week at the Academy Showcase. First up was a match pitting the Lions against the Chicago Fire U-16 squad. Orlando City got out to a quick start on a 12th minute goal by Jonathan Rosales. The Lions added a second goal in the 38th minute from Nathaniel Adamolekun. The Fire pulled a goal back in the 76th minute to close it to 2-1, but the Lions were able to hold on for the win.
"I’m not happy we conceded a late goal," said U-16 head coach Jeff Negalha. "We just needed better composure in that moment. Overall our competitiveness was high, we scored two good goals, our ball possession was productive, and team defending was strong."
The next day saw Orlando City take the field against the FC Dallas U-16 team. This game was close throughout and went to the half scoreless. With only a few minutes on the clock, David Loera scored an 82nd minute goal to win the game for the Lions.
"We handled the early pressure and then settled into the match very well (against FC Dallas)," said Negalha. "I was very pleased with our aggressive mentality on and off the ball. We scored a goal from another very good sequence. In the end, our performance was positive."
Negalha also summed up the first two matches by saying, "The teamwork by each player has been very influential with our progress. We must continue to get better and move forward."
Two days later, Orlando City took on the Dallas Texans U-16s. The game was yet another tight contest, with the teams battling to a scoreless draw through the first half. Things picked up in the second half, as Malik Key scored for the Texans in the 68th minute. Down by one with time winding down, David Norris scored a huge goal for Orlando City in the 75th minute to tie the game. Neither team could find a winner and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The U-16s finished the Showcase 2-0-1 and gained valuable experience playing in tight games.
Both the U-18 and U-16 teams represented Orlando City on the Gulf Coast well.