Orlando City B is the reserve team for Orlando City SC. The club doesn't attempt to hide that and nobody would deny that. Being the reserve team, the most important function for the squad is to control playing time to the club's young players at a professional level. Despite this, OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis has demonstrated that he won't show favoritism towards MLS contracted players.
The OCB roster is made up of three types of players: MLS players getting time in the USL; young players who aren't ready for MLS but are on MLS contracts; and those on USL contracts. Because OCB is first and foremost a reserve team, it would be easy for Pulis to play all players on MLS contracts before USL players, whether they've earned it or not. But that's not how Pulis has treated this team.
Prior to the club's inaugural MLS season in 2015, Orlando City signed two Young Designated Players, Carlos Rivas and Bryan Rochez. While Rivas has become a regular fixture for the senior team, Rochez has had his troubles. Last year, the young striker missed several weeks after losing his passport while at the U-20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand. While he returned strong for the Lions as a super sub for Cyle Larin, he started the 2016 season at OCB.
It was anticipated that Rochez would regularly start for OCB this year but that hasn't happened. He suffered an injury in preseason and a lack of training relegated Rochez to the bench.
"We've had some issues with him," Pulis said about why the striker hasn't seen playing time. Despite the fact that Rochez is on an MLS contract, Pulis had gone regularly with 23-year-old Canadian striker Michael Cox.
"Coxy's done well," Pulis said about choosing the young striker. "I like Coxy a lot. He's got a lot of potential and he's got goals in him."
From a results standpoint, Pulis' decision has paid off. While 2016 first-round draft pick Hadji Barry has been chosen over Cox when available, Cox has obviously improved with his opportunities to play regularly. After struggling early in the year, he's become a common sight on the score sheet.
Pulis further showed his willingness to play USL players over MLS players Saturday night. After Tyler Turner spent two games suspended for being sent off in Charleston and yellow card accumulation, Pulis went with Zach Hayden against the Charlotte Independence.
"Tyler was obviously suspended for two games," Pulis said following the team's draw. "I thought Zach did well so I decided to keep Zach in. I don't feel like he deserved to be left out. It's tough on Tyler but that's football. Zach's got the shirt because he got into the team and did well."
Like with Rochez, despite the fact that Turner is on an MLS contract, Pulis rewarded Hayden with the starting spot Saturday night. Starting Cox and Hayden has paid off on the field and did again Saturday night as the two teamed up early in the second half to score the equalizing goal.
While Cox and Hayden are on USL contracts, that doesn't mean they can't end up with the senior team. Technically, OCB is an affiliate of Orlando City and each MLS team can claim three players from their affiliate that they have rights to. So, despite the fact that they're on USL contracts, Orlando City could end up signing these young players down the road.
It would seem to many that, given the role of OCB within the club, it would be more beneficial to give preferential treatment to MLS contracted players. However, Anthony Pulis has shown a willingness to gives the starting nod to whichever player has earned it, regardless of their contract.