Admit it. When Orlando City B played its first five games, it seemed like it was going to be a rough first year for the new USL side. Losing the season opener, getting blown out by Orlando's former affiliate Louisville City FC, losing again at home, all mixed with three red cards to OCB players within the first few weeks of the season, it was all fairly disheartening.
Now, with nine games left in its first season, OCB sits in eighth place in the east and is currently riding a nine-game unbeaten streak, which speaks highly of the development that has gone on with the young Lions' roster.
"The first four games I wasn't pleased," OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis said in May about the beginning of the season. "I don't think we performed well. The results weren't obviously great but I'm a big believer if the performances are good consistently, that the results will be a byproduct of good performances. We're by no means the finished product. We still have an awful lot of work to do and things to improve on, but it was pleasing to see some of the guys take on board the bits and pieces that we've been working on the training ground."
With such a young and untested roster to work with, Pulis -- along with Assistant Coach Rob Valentino and captain Lewis Neal -- has gotten the team to gel as a unit and evolve into better players individually. Names like academy product Pierre da Silva, forward Michael Cox, Homegrown Player Tyler Turner and Orlando City's 2016 draft pick Richie Laryea have all come into their own this season and have impressed the coaching staff. Da Silva has gotten called up to the U.S. U-19 team, Cox leads the team in goals, Turner played 90 minutes in the Chipotle Homegrown game and was named No. 4 in the USL's "20 Under 20" list, and Laryea has quietly come along as a strong midfield presence for the club.
All of these individual accolades have bolstered the performance of the team as a whole and put it in an optimal position heading down the stretch of the USL season.
In comparison to the other teams under the Orlando City umbrella, they are defying expectations. The MLS side has gone through ups and downs, including a coaching change and roster struggles, while the Orlando Pride, also in its first year, has hit a rough patch without some star players and currently sits in seventh out of 10 teams in the NWSL. While there's still time for all three clubs to make the playoffs in their respective leagues, the Pride only has seven more games in its season, while Orlando City has 12 games to make up the difference. With that being said, OCB is riding high and continues to improve as time goes on, making them a real playoff contender coming down to the season's end.