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Is Lewis Neal Helping or Hurting Orlando City B?

After being involved in two physical confrontations during Orlando City B's first four games, is Lewis Neal helping or hurting OCB?

Matt Starkey

Following the club's inaugural MLS season, Orlando City midfielder Lewis Neal, a member of the club's original team in 2011, was signed to the club's USL team, Orlando City B. Neal would take on the role of player/coach helping the young players of OCB take that next step both on and off the field. But is Neal actually helping these players?

While they'd like to be successful on the field, one of the primary purposes of OCB is to allow young players to learn how to be professionals in a competitive environment. Part of that is being able to control their emotions in adverse situations during a game. Neal's role, as an experienced veteran, is to lead by example during these times.

After playing with Orlando City in 2011, Neal signed with D.C. United, one of the original MLS teams and the league's first dynasty. Over the next three years, Neal became an integral part of D.C.'s success and was brought back to his original American club for the Lions' debut in MLS. Last season, Neal played a key role for Orlando City with Adrian Heath leaning on the MLS veteran as a stable presence with such a young team. With the experience he's gained over the past four years, a major part of Neal's role with OCB is to be a role model for the young players he finds himself playing with this season.

The majority of the OCB roster is made up of young players under the age of 24, who are looking to make it to the next level, MLS. These players know the experience that Neal has at that level and undoubtedly look to the 34-year-old to see how to be a professional and how to make it to the next level.

Neal was sent off Saturday night against the Harrisburg City Islanders after a tussle with Shawn Wheeler. After Wheeler pushed Neal to the ground and stepped on him, Neal popped up grabbing Wheeler and ripping the forward's shirt. The two teams got together between the benches and Neal was issued his second yellow for his part.

It was the second time OCB has clashed with an opponent between the benches in Melbourne. On March 26, OCB and the Wilmington Hammerheads got together between the benches before cooler heads prevailed. Like Saturday night, Neal was in the middle of the disruption. Having been an integral part of two confrontations in the team's first four games, it's fair to ask, is Lewis Neal helping or hurting these young players?

On the one hand, Neal's actions could be seen as standing up for his teammates and for himself. It could be seen as showing fire and passion in competition. But it could also be seen as a negative. Some players, like 17-year-old midfielder Pierre da Silva, a player that Orlando City sees as an important part of the senior team in the future, may see this as the way a professional is to act during these situations.

Neal's actions from these two situations could have a very negative effect on the future of these young players. If a young player is called in by Heath during a future season, getting sent off during their debut would be detrimental to their future at the club. It's well known to Orlando City fans by now that MLS often plays through international breaks, causing the Lions to lose key players. The club needs young players to step up in those situations and if a young player shows to be too emotional and gets sent off during one of these games, Heath may not trust them going forward.

As a player/coach for OCB, Lewis Neal is a critical part of the development of Orlando City's young players. But after being involved in two physical engagements in the team's first four games, it's fair to ask, is Neal helping or hurting OCB?