The 2015 MLS SuperDraft will be held later today, and Orlando City SC will have the opportunity to make the first selection. It’ll be another milestone toward the club’s inaugural MLS season.
During the MLS Combine, Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath stated that the club will be willing to wait two to three years for the club's first pick to make an impact on the first team. This willingness to wait for a young product to mature follows the club’s pattern of building for the future.
One very noticeable thing about Orlando City’s roster thus far is its youth. The club has signed 13 players 24 years old or younger, and six players aged 20 years or younger. These signings have shown that the club is not just building to win in its inaugural season, but is also looking to add players that will make up the team’s core in the future.
With Wednesday’s trade of forward Jairo Arrieta to D.C. United for an additional international slot, the expected number one pick is University of Connecticut forward Cyle Larin. Widely considered the best player available, the 19-year-old has already been capped for Canada’s senior national team.
While some of the younger players on Orlando City’s roster are MLS-ready now, many are projects that will eventually become key parts of the team. The club has built the roster by mixing young talent with veteran experience, expecting that the younger players will learn from the more seasoned guys. Heath’s statement about waiting until tomorrow’s pick is ready to contribute continues that plan.
Another positive of this plan is that the club has time to build its academy. To build a strong youth academy takes a lot of time and money. If the proper investment is made, and if the club has enough patience, over time, some of the young players will develop into key first-team members. However, that doesn't happen overnight.
Founded in 2012, the Orlando City developmental academy already has several players on U.S. youth national teams. When the academy was first founded, club president Phil Rawlins stated that he wanted to eventually have about seven first-team members to come through the academy. It’s a goal that the club continues to work toward.
Every team needs veteran leadership, and Orlando City is no different. But those players are more than likely short-term fixes that will be gone in a few years. By building a team that includes a young group of players, the club is planning for when that veteran group moves on and does so while giving the academy the time it needs to grow.
Orlando City's first-team youth is noticeable. The club is obviously committed to building a squad with youth, keeping an eye on the future. Heath’s statements at the MLS Combine illustrate that the plan remains consistent throughout all channels of talent acquisition -- including today's No. 1 SuperDraft pick.