On Monday, Orlando City signed it's fourth Homegrown Player in club history, nearly a year and a half after announcing its first Homegrown signing, defender Tommy Redding, who saw regular time starting minutes with the Lions in the USL before making the jump to Major League Soccer.
Redding, like many of the other young players on the roster, wasn't expected to see much, if any, time with the first team this season. He was mostly expected to spend time with Orlando City's USL affiliate, Louisville City FC. But constant injuries and call-ups prevented Adrian Heath from sending his young center back out on loan, forcing Redding to stick around with Orlando City for most of 2015, getting very little playing time in the process.
In all, things didn't go as planned for the 18-year-old, who appeared in just two league games and one friendly for Orlando City, in 2015.
Redding only played a total of 87 MLS minutes for the Lions across two games -- one start, one sub -- so as far as stats go, there's almost nothing to look at.
His first official appearance for the Lions this year came late in the first half of the club's July friendly against West Bromwich Albion, replacing the injured Harrison Heath. Amobi Okugo had started the game at center back and he moved up to allow Redding to play center back.
As for Redding's MLS debut, that came just a few weeks later, against the Philadelphia Union when, again, Redding came on in the first 15 minutes to take over for the injured Conor Donovan. Redding would go on to have an outstanding 76 minutes on the field, helping the Lions shut out Philly in that one. His first MLS start, Oct. 3 against Montreal, lasted all of 11 minutes, as Redding was forced to exit the game early after a collision in the air with Rafael Ramos that would sideline him for the rest of the season.
The moral of the story: whenever Redding played, it always preceded or followed by either him or someone else getting seriously injured. #BadLuck
Well, obviously it has to be the debut against Philadelphia. Redding was one of Orlando City's best defenders in that match, playing much more like an eight-year veteran than an 18-year-old making his MLS debut.
In North Carolina just a day before the match, expecting to play a USL match, Redding answered the call back to the senior club, completing every pass he attempted in the match, and showing plenty of talent and potential on the defensive side of the ball. His effort earned praise from players and teammates alike afterwards. His coach:
"I thought he was very composed, very good on the ball, he read the game well. Tommy is a little one. He has hardly played any football all season," said Head Coach Adrian Heath of Redding's performance. "So, he is absolutely exhausted in there, he is shattered. It is difficult when you have to throw them in when probably they aren't 100 percent ready."
And his goalkeeper:
"The defensive player's role is key when it comes to composure and ability to make big plays. It is very difficult to do that and he came in and did a fantastic job," goalkeeper Tally Hall said of Redding. "I can't overstate how hard of a position he was put in and he handled like it was nothing. It was awesome and I am happy for him."
Redding will probably see a lot of time with Orlando City B next season. The Lions will come into the year with Aurelien Collin, David Mateos, Seb Hines, and possibly another veteran center back on the roster, meaning Redding will have to battle hard in preseason is he wants to have any chance of making the senior roster. (He'll also have to battle Conor Donovan.) Regardless, a full year of playing time in the USL -- which is has grown tremendously since Orlando City left in 2014 -- will be a great chance for Redding to continue to grow and learn before becoming a regular for Heath down the road.
Final 2015 Rating
There's no way to give Redding a grade other than incomplete after appearing in just two league matches and totaling less than 90 minutes. Unofficially, Redding grabs a 4.5 from The Mane Land staff. All things considered, like the fact that he didn't expect to play against Philly, and that his second appearance was cut short by injury, you can't fault him much. Redding's a talented player, and I'm excited to see him grow with Orlando City.