As soon as he made the move from Austin to Orlando in the beginning of November, Tony Rocha quickly started to train with the Orlando City first team. It didn't take him long to realize how much value Orlando City as a club places on its defensive midfielders.
"I feel like (defensive midfielder is) a very important position in this team," said Rocha. "Being able to learn from the experienced players (we) have in those positions like (Darwin) Ceren, (Servando) Carrasco and (Cristian) Higuita is going to be a great way for me to grow as a player and learn the position better to hopefully step in when the time is right."
Rocha, a Houston native, was a staple as a defensive midfielder for the Austin Aztex before being signed to Orlando City B as one of the first three to ink deals with the new USL club. He scored the first goal in (new) Aztex history in 2012, and played the previous three seasons with Austin, being named to the All-Southern Conference Team in 2013 and 2014 in the PDL. Rocha also was part of the 2013 Aztex championship squad.
He followed those campaigns up with a solid 2015 season in the team's first season in the USL. He scored one goal and added three assists in 18 appearances.
But once the Aztex made the decision to take the year off in 2016, Rocha, much like Aztex teammate Mikey Ambrose, had to find a place to play, and Orlando quickly made a move.
"My agent had told me that the (Orlando CIty) coaches watched a couple games and they were interested in me as a player to possibly go play in Orlando next season," Rocha said.
After graduating from Klein Oak High School in Texas, Rocha went on to play at Tulsa, where he starred as a defender for four years in a career that included winning C-USA Freshman of the Year.
Rocha has sniffed the MLS, but has never made it to a club's roster. In 2015, he was drafted by Sporting Kansas City in the fourth round with the 73rd overall pick. However, the 22-year-old was never signed to a contract. SKC didn't have a development team at the time, and he eventually ended up back with the Aztex.
But now, Rocha is with a club in Orlando City B that wants to focus on developing its players to eventually make the jump to the MLS side, which is obviously the goal for Rocha.
"I feel blessed to be able to be a part of an organization that wants to put a lot of effort into developing young players and get them ready for the first team," Rocha said.