The Orlando City SC's U.S. Soccer Development Academy (or known short-hand as USSDA) squads returned to action this past weekend, Jan. 24, with positive results. Both the U-17/18 and U-15/16 squads took to the pitch in Bradenton, FL, for a match with conference rivals IMG Academy.
The U-17/18 DA squad, coached by Paul Shaw, earned its eighth victory of the season with a 5-1 thrashing of IMG. Gorak Aperrbay and Cormac Begley scored two goals each for Orlando City to put the game out of reach early in the second half, while, as an added bonus, leading goal scorer Benjamin Michel slotted home his 11th of the season in the 70th minute.
The win keeps the team comfortably in the middle of the wild card pool, where they currently sit sixth. Although the 8-5-2 record is only good enough for fifth place in the Southeastern Conference at the moment, Orlando City is only five points behind current first-place squad, Kendall SC out of Miami. With just over four months, and 20 games, left in the season, there is plenty of time for the Orlando City boys to improve their position.
Perhaps even well enough to catch up to the performance being turned in by the U-15/16 boys squad.
Head Coach Jeff Negalha has his DA squad sitting pretty in first place in conference and third in the playoff bracket. The 2-1 victory over IMG on Saturday improved the U-15/16 boys record to 12-1-2.
The Lions' David Norris doubled his goal total for the year in the Saturday match, netting goals in the 56th and 66th minutes of the contest. His four goals on the year are good enough to tie Juan Esteban Carmona for third on the team's scoring chart behind David Loera's seven and Nathaniel Adamolekun's 11.
The U-15/16 boys have conceded only 15 goals this season, yet they have amassed a remarkable 41 goals scored in the same 15 games. That gives the squad an outstanding +26 goal differential.
Up next for the U-17/18 and U-15/16 boys of Orlando City is an away match in Atlanta with developmental academy side Concorde Fire on Saturday Jan. 31.
The Fire's U-15/16 DA squad is currently sixth in conference, having already played 18 games, with a record of 8-5-5. The Fire has scored 35 goals this season but has also conceded 31 times. Orlando City defeated the Concorde Fire by a score of 6-1 when the teams met back in September.
It would certainly seem like Orlando City's U-15/16 squad holds a distinct advantage in the match, while the two U-17/16 squads appear more evenly matched.
The Fire's U-17/18 squad is currently one position higher in conference and two positions higher in the wild card pool than Orlando City, sitting in fourth place in both tables. Once again, however, the Fire squad has played three more matches than the Lions have already this season. Concorde emerged victorious in the September match between the clubs by a score of 4-3.
A victory Saturday would give the U-17/18 Lions a solid push to get to the top of the conference and set a nice tone for the second half of the year. With National Signing Day just around the corner, on Feb. 4, a solid second-half run could build some nice positive momentum for any of the graduating athletes as the move on to their next level clubs.
The Orlando City DA U-13/14 boys return to action Feb. 7 against Tampa Bay United.