Very few things can be more fearsome for a young player than getting called into the new head coach’s office out of the blue. Of the million thoughts that might have gone racing through Mikey Ambrose’s head last week, being greeted with the opportunity to sign an MLS contract with Orlando City was not one of them.
"Jason (Kreis) called me into his office and just surprised me in the morning — I had no idea, I just woke up, and it hit me in the face right there," Ambrose said after another intense training session in the Florida sun on Wednesday. "He said that they made a deal with Dallas the night before and asked if I wanted to sign, and I was like, ‘Of course I want to sign. I thought maybe they would give me a chance at the end of the year, but mid-season it’s been a dream come true."
Ambrose called his mother immediately after learning the news to tell her — a conversation that mostly consisted of his mother in tears, crying out of joy. Ambrose flew her out to Orlando that night to celebrate the signing.
"It’s been a crazy week. For them to call me into the first team has been a dream come true," Ambrose reiterated. "I’ve always wanted to play in MLS, so it’s just amazing they’ve given me the opportunity to play here and I’m very excited to play for Orlando City."
Ambrose was one of the first players signed by OCB last October ahead of the 2016 USL season, coming over from the Austin Aztex. The left back played in 18 games for the Lions’ USL side before Orlando City acquired his MLS rights from FC Dallas last week, giving the club the ability to sign the 22-year-old. The Lions added the defender along with his good friend Tony Rocha, who had a day earlier gotten the same news from Kreis and had his rights acquired from Sporting Kansas City.
The two were both very happy for each other, but didn’t have time to celebrate with the busy slate of games they had ahead of them at the time.
Ambrose is one of the first real signs of the kind of impact OCB can have on the first team in giving players the opportunity to earn an MLS spot, as we’ve now seen two players promoted this season. Stepping up to the first team has brought a bit of a difference on the training ground, says Ambrose.
"OCB training is very good with (Orlando City B Head Coach Anthony Pulis) and (OCB Assistant Coach) Rob (Valentino)," Ambrose said. "They’ve prepared me very well — me and Tony, they’ve prepared us — and training there is very intense, but it’s been a little step up in intensity, concentration, and focus, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. Ant runs the OCB practices very well, but Jason is just a little step above — the concentration, the speed of play is a little higher."
And in addition to a higher level of training, Ambrose now has the ability to play around guys that have been in the game much longer, with more experiences to feed off of as a younger player.
"I hope to learn a lot from (the senior players)," he said. "I’m still young and I’m learning every day. It’s just great to learn from players like (Luke Boden) and Seb Hines and all of them, and it’s just a lot of fun and I’ve looked up to them, so it’s been good learning from them the last week."