During the 2015-16 off-season, Orlando City made two key additions to its new reserve team. Midfielders Mikey Ambrose and Tony Rocha moved from the USL's Austin Aztex to play for Orlando City B in Melbourne.
During the first couple of preseason games, Rocha has begun to make a name for himself. He started for the Lions in their first preseason game in Melbourne against Eastern Florida State College and, after being replaced at halftime by Carlos Rivas, came back on to finish the game following Rivas' hamstring injury. The midfielder drew rave reviews from Head Coach Adrian Heath, who made it a point during his postgame press gathering to single out the performance.
But how did the Lions end up with this 22-year-old player?
In 2010, Phil Rawlins had been running the Austin Aztex FC in Texas at a high school football stadium, House Park. However, the facilities were far from adequate for a professional sports team with no luxury boxes and, being owned and operated by the Austin Independent School District, no alcohol sales. Rawlins' attempts to move to a new venue were unsuccessful.
When Rawlins decided to close that project and move to Orlando, minority owner David Markley took over with the same goal of giving Austin an MLS team. Due to its lesser requirements, Markley initially moved the team down to the USL's Premier Development League before moving them back up to USL for the 2015 season.
Markley kept the Aztex at House Park as he continued to hunt for a new facility, but an early move became necessary when 2015's Memorial Day floods forced relocation. The team moved its remaining games to Reeves Athletic Complex, owned and operated by the Round Rock Independent School District. Being at another high school football stadium gave the team the same primary problem as House Park, which was no ability to sell alcohol.
Despite strong attendance numbers, the Aztex were near the bottom of the league in revenue due to their inability to sell alcohol. This convinced the USL to step in and demand the Aztex move to a new location where alcohol could be served.
With no alternative location that wasn't owned by a school district and therefore could sell alcohol, the club's ownership made the decision to suspend team operations on Oct. 2, 2015.
While playing for the University of Tulsa, Rocha played for the Aztex in 2012 and the Tulsa Athletics of the NPSL in 2014. After graduating, Rocha moved back to Austin to join the club in its inaugural professional season.
Ambrose and Rocha were announced by Orlando City as its reserve team's newest signings on Oct. 15, 2015. Since then, Rocha has impressed in training and the team's first two preseason games, as he continues to turn heads. He'll continue to attempt to impress his new team as preseason continues.