Orlando City B's season didn't start out how many anticipated. A young team mixed with veterans, a first-year coaching staff and a home stadium an hour away from their training grounds is a tough mixture to blend together right away. Now OCB sits ninth in the table with 11 points in 10 games, and are coming off arguably their best performance of the season after beating last year's champion Rochester Rhinos, 2-1.
The team will have two more home games in succession coming up: this weekend against the fifth-placed Charlotte Independence and next weekend against their former affiliate, Louisville City FC. With these games at home and the team coming off a dominant win, Orlando has a good chance to pick up some points against two very good teams.
Mainly, it helps that the team is starting to get consistent play from its starters, as well as having a consistent starting lineup every game. Mark Ridgers has been fantastic in goal so far, much like his MLS and NWSL Orlando counterparts, while MLS products Tyler Turner, Conor Donovan and Devron Garcia have started to secure the back line, bringing a more stable level of play to the defense. Lewis Neal has had his ups and downs this year, but he is the most veteran player in the lineup and is the literal "coach on the field," helping to direct traffic and mentor the younger guys while playing alongside them. Then up top, the load has been shared by Michael Cox, Hadji Barry and Bryan Rochez, who have combined for seven of the team's 11 goals. Both MLS products Barry and Rochez have two goals each, with Barry netting a brace his last time out.
The biggest thing that can be taken away from OCB's play is that all of the young players that Orlando City (the MLS side) want to have develop into future first-team players are getting valuable game minutes to help in their maturation. The 17-year-old Pierre Da Silva, an Orlando City academy product and U.S. U-17 player, has been getting starts on the wing and even went a full 90 minutes against Rochester for the first time in his career. While he's still a few years away from an MLS call-up, his presence on the team helps pave the way for other OCSC academy players to make the jump to USL straight from the academy in order to play professionally and get meaningful minutes.
Even the young players that Orlando City has sent down from MLS have began to show improvement over their time spent with OCB, which has in turn helped get results for the USL team. The more positive results the team gets, the better these young guys will be mentally, hopefully making their development all the more fruitful when they're ready to make the jump to MLS. A winning mentality was something that the 2011-2014 USL team cultivated in Orlando. Now it's time for their successors to take that mentality and breed success within their future players.