With Copa America Centenario starting, Major Leauge Soccer is taking a three-week break during the group stage of the tournament. No MLS club needs this break more than Orlando City. But it's not just the injured senior team members that will benefit. This break will also have a positive effect on the young players of Orlando City B.
Most of the players that play with OCB are there as they are still developing as professionals. But due to injuries to starters such as Darwin Ceren and David Mateos, some of those players have been unexpectedly called in the senior team where they sit on the bench rather than playing. This temporarily halts their development by not allowing them to take part in competitive matches.
The timing of the Copa America Centenario has a dual positive effect for Orlando City. For the senior team, it is allowing injured players like Ceren, Mateos, and Seb Hines to rest and regain their health without missing any games. For OCB, it allows the younger players still developing to play league games without being called away to the senior team to replace the injured regulars.
The impact that OCB has had on the development of certain players has already shown through this season. Young players like Tyler Turner, Richie Laryea, and Hadji Barry would only be training or likely seeing minimal minutes on the field without the existance of the reserve team. But all three of those players, and others, have shown remarkable improvement largely due to the fact that they're able to play 90 minutes each week in the Melbourne-based USL squad.
Last week, the effect of the injured first team players on OCB was in full display. Due to injuries and suspensions, Harrison Heath, Devron Garcia, Conor Donovan, and Barry were all in Adrian Heath's 18 that traveled to New York. While Heath got the starting nod with Ceren injured and Cristian Higuita suspended, Garcia, Donovan, and Barry spent the majority of the game on the bench.
All four of those players have spent the majority of this season with OCB and have seen vast improvement because of it. Had the Copa America Centenario not forced the MLS's three week stoppage, some or all of those players may have been called in due to absences and not been available for Anthony Pulis' side Sunday night against Louisville City.
Without question, the Copa America Centenario has come at a good time for Orlando City. A team decimated by injuries now gets a three-week break to get some of its wounded back on the field. But it also comes at a good time for some of the young OCB players. Rather than sitting on the bench with the senior team, they'll resume playing with the reserves in Melbourne where they'll play the majorty of the game which will help them continue their development. It's a positive break for a club that hasn't seen many this year.