In 2012, Orlando City SC purchased a local youth soccer club, Florida Soccer Alliance (FSA), which it turned into Orlando City Youth Soccer. Out of this acquisition came the Orlando City Development Academy. The club invested heavily in its academy from the outset and those investments are starting to bear fruit. Four players from the 2017 class have gone on to play in the ACC, the nation’s premier college soccer conference, and one of those players has started to stand out above the rest.
Being a standout player isn’t new to David Loera. The Orlando native gained recognition when he became the first player to appear for Orlando City B while still in the academy. In 2016, Anthony Pulis brought on the teenager in the 54th minute in a late July game at Louisville City, where Loera made an immediate impact. Looking confident and skilled on the ball, he provided the assist to Keegan Smith in injury time on what would be OCB’s game-winning goal.
Loera went on to make two more appearances with OCB that season and five appearances this year, with one start. During the 2016-17 USSDA playoffs, Loera sparked a run for the Orlando City U-17/18 academy team to the knockout rounds. In the group stage, he netted goals in all three games, two of which were game winners.
Ranked 59th in the 2017 Boys IMG Academy Top 150, Loera chose to attend North Carolina State University.
“The coaching staff was the best fit for me to make it to the next stage, a professional career,” the freshman said of his choice. “Also, the ACC is the best league in the country.”
While teammates Raul Aguilera and Landen Haig attended nationally ranked North Carolina and Wake Forest, respectively, their playing time has been minimal thus far. Meanwhile, Loera and fellow Orlando City academy graduate David Norris have become key components of a Wolfpack starting lineup that shook the conference when they upset Clemson on Sept. 8. Loera provided the assist on the lone goal of that game, announcing his arrival.
“I didn’t expect to play this much coming in,” Loera said about his substantial playing time this season. “I knew that I had to work hard and that’s what I did.”
That hard work continued to pay off when the midfielder assisted on two of the Wolfpack’s three goals against UNC-Asheville on Sept. 26. The moment he had set his sights on came a week later when Loera netted his first collegiate goal against Belmont in a 3-0 win.
“I’ve been working hard, trying to get one every single game,” Loera said following the accomplishment. “So the hard work pays off.”
While Loera credits his coach, George Kiefer, for believing in him, he admits that his time at OCB has given him an advantage when facing older, bigger players. “OCB definitely helped me prepare. It helped me to become more physical and adapt to the faster pace.”
So far this season, Loera has started in each of the 12 games NC State has played. He’s accumulated 1,068 minutes, averaging 89 minutes per game (three games went into overtime). His playing time has created two new goals, which he’s not far off from meeting.
Loera defined these goals as, “making the ACC All-Freshman Team and to start every game and play every minute.” Top Drawer Soccer listed Loera to its preseason national all-freshman team and, so far, he’s lived up to the billing. As for his other goal, he’s started each game and played every minute in eight, including two 110-minute affairs.
With five games left in the 2017 season, NC State sits fourth in the ACC’s powerful Atlantic Division, with a 2-3 record in conference, and is 6-4-1 overall. As the Wolfpack’s number 10, Loera will have more chances to impress this season as he takes on top 10 programs Virginia and Louisville in the coming week.
Orlando City’s academy has reached a new level as it produces players that can play at some of the best schools in the country. Having turned heads prior to attending college, Loera has been better than advertised.
“I’m closer to achieving my dream of playing professionally,” Loera says boldly. With his current form, he may be closer than he thinks.