After nine games of the 2016 USL season, Orlando City B took the weekend off before the young Lions host the Rochester Rhinos next Sunday night, making this a good time to look back at what we've seen so far. OCB is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference, with eight points, and sits fourth out of the five reserve teams in the conference. But what have we learned from the team so far this year?
Tyler Turner Needs To Be More Consistent
Right back Tyler Turner has shown this year that he can be either the best player on the field or the worst player on the field. Even if you exclude the two games he played at center back and the game where he played left back, he has been on opposite ends of the pole this year. Against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Turner was fantastic going forward, scoring two goals. But against FC Cincinnati, he was awful, with one of the errant passes forcing goalkeeper Mark Ridgers to come off his line and resulting in him being sent off, as well as the go-ahead goal on the ensuing penalty for the opposition. Turner's still young at just 20 years old, but needs to show more consistency if he hopes to make an impact anytime soon for the senior team.
OCB is Already Showing Benefits
The biggest impact for OCB is giving academy players the ability to become professional before they're ready for MLS and to give players not seeing minutes with the senior team a place to receive playing time. Richie Laryea was a first-round draft pick this season for Orlando City but was unlikely to see much playing time with the first team. A regular starter for OCB, Laryea's already showing the benefits of playing each week. After just eight games played, Laryea looks much more confident on the ball than the start of the season and is already showing improvement.
Apart from giving players like Laryea, Hadji Barry, and Harrison Heath a place to play, it's also somewhere for players coming back from injury to get minutes. Recently, Conor Donovan has begun playing games with OCB as he continues to return from last year's ACL tear. Last week, left back Luke Boden played in Melbourne as he returned from his own hamstring injury.
Mark Ridgers is Good
Scottish goalkeeper Mark Ridgers was a relatively unknown player coming into this season. Joining from Scottish side St. Mirren, Ridgers has been called into making big saves that have kept the Lions in multiple games. He's been one of the hidden gems this season.
Ambrose and Da Silva
The most effective combo this season for OCB has been on the left side of the field. 22-year-old left back Mikey Ambrose join the club from the Austin Aztex, after his club went on hiatus after the 2015 season, and 17-year-old midfielder Pierre da Silva joined OCB straight out of the academy. Though the two have been separated recently since da Silva was away winning the Slovakian Cup with the U.S. U-19 national team, Ambrose has continued to impress and both look like they could be a part of Adrian Heath's plans in the future.
Many people will look at OCB's record this year and consider this early season negatively. But, unlike the independent clubs in the USL, there is much more to look at when considering reserve teams. For OCB, there have been some good surprises by young players and some that would've been only playing during training have clearly benefited by playing regular games. So far it's fair to say that the addition of OCB has been successful.