Orlando City has announced the signings of Orlando City B midfielder Tony Rocha and defender Mikey Ambrose to MLS contracts. The two 22-year-old standouts have been regulars for Orlando City's reserve team but the club had to acquire their MLS rights to make the signings.
After leaving the University of Tulsa, Rocha was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft with the 73rd overall pick by Sporting Kansas City. He played the 2015 season with the Austin Aztex of the USL, the club he played with in 2012 when they were in the USL's PDL. City announced yesterday that the club had acquired Rocha's MLS rights from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
After coming through the FC Dallas academy, Ambrose played collegiate soccer at the University of Maryland. He left a year early and was expected to enter the 2015 MLS SuperDraft but decided to join Rocha with the Austin Aztex instead -- the club he had played with the previous two summers. Today, the Lions announced they had acquired Ambrose's rights from FC Dallas for a third-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.
Following the 2015 USL season, the Austin Aztex went on hiatus as they were unable to find a suitable home stadium. Without a club, Rocha and Ambrose signed with Orlando City B for the 2016 USL season. Rocha has played in 19 games for the young Lions this season, compiling one goal and two assists in 1,535 minutes of play. The regular starting left back for Anthony Pulis this season, Ambrose has played in 18 games compiling 1,533 minutes of playing time.
Rocha spent much of the Orlando City preseason with the senior team. He took part in the Lions' 1-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, playing the final 45 minutes. In the next round of the tournament, Rocha started in the midfield in the Lions' 2-1 loss to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He was replaced by Adrian Winter in the 76th minute. Rocha also started the Stoke City friendly surrounded by Orlando City's first-team regulars and held his own against the EPL side.
Ambrose fills a vital need at left back as Brek Shea has returned to his attacking midfield role since new head coach Jason Kreis was hired.
The signings may make life a little more difficult for Orlando City B in the club's inaugural year, unless the two continue to get playing time with the young Lions. Rocha and Ambrose have been staples in the OCB lineup this season and have been among the USL side's better performers in 2016. Today's signings show that their efforts have not gone unnoticed, and serve as another example of how the creation of OCB has helped the club in 2016.