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Selecting the 2017 Orlando City B Best XI

Obviously Earl Edwards Jr. was the best keeper, but who else was the best at their respective position for OCB?

MLS: New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2017 USL season, 32 players have played for OCB in at least one of the young Lions' many different starting XIs. Fourteen players found the back of the net, while another 21 picked up at least one card. There have been players that have made as many as 28 appearances to as few as one.

With the developmental side’s roster constantly changing, it is difficult to pick one player at each position that excelled more than anyone else. However, to make things a little easier, all the players in this 2017 Best XI played a minimum of 10 games. Also, with only two contracted players above the age of 25 — Timbo and Lewis Neal — there is so much potential with almost all the individuals. All the players involved are judged simply on their performances in 2017 USL play, and not on what they could contribute to OCB and Orlando City in the future.

Goalkeeper: Earl Edwards Jr.

This is the only position with no contest. Orlando City signing Josh Saunders was the best thing for Edwards, and the 25-year-old former third-round pick finished the season seventh in saves and third in clean sheets in the USL, while only playing 22 games. Edwards was not just the best keeper for OCB, but one of the best in the league.

Fullback: Zachary Ellis-Hayden

Ellis-Hayden made 24 appearances, 19 of which were starts, in his second season on OCB. The Canadian needs to improve his attack, but was as solid defensively as he could’ve been asked to be in 2017. He led the team in tackles and was in the top five in clearances, blocks, and interceptions. His eight yellow cards are a cause for concern, and his 80% passing accuracy could have been better, but you know what you are going to get with Ellis-Hayden. He was a consistently impressive fullback that got forward and threatened offensively.

Center Back: Seb Hines

I wrote about Hines’ roller coaster of a career a few weeks ago, which has had as many ups and downs as a gymnast. This year, however, Hines has only improved. MLSers that are sent down to the USL could take it in two ways — as a joke, and proceed to just go through the motions; or by making the best of it and showing that they belong. Hines chose the latter option and helped OCB to a 12-match unbeaten run. When Hines has started and played the first five minutes of any match, he hadn’t lost since September of 2016 until this past Sunday vs. Columbus. Hines played 15 games for OCB in 2017, and finished with 79% passing accuracy, a 77% tackle success rate, just five yellow cards, and a goal. The center back was rewarded for his great play with a starting spot on the MLS side.

Center Back: Zach Carroll

Statistically, Carroll was OCB’s best defender. His 39 interceptions, 85 clearances, and 57 aerial duels won were all team highs. Additionally, he had the second-most passes with 1,035, which is 187 better than the third-best player. Carroll’s 11 blocks and 271 long passes were also second-best among the young Lions. The defender played 24 games in the USL this season and was a key part of the defense after signing from the USL defending champion New York Red Bulls II.

Fullback: Scott Thomsen

Statistically, nothing about Thomsen’s 2017 jumps off the page. He played just 15 games, did not score any goals, and his 74% passing accuracy is one of the worst on the team. However, left back was probably OCB’s weakest position and when Thomsen was in he performed well. He got forward when he could and made some key stops on the defensive end. The 23-year-old put the ball on a platter for Albert Dikwa on his lone assist of the year that helped the young Lions to a comeback 1-1 draw against Charlotte. Also, unlike many fullbacks, the majority of his passes were in attacking positions instead of back to safety. Finally, Thomsen played in less than half of the young Lions’ games, but put in the fourth-most crosses on OCB.

Midfielder: Pierre Da Silva

Over his first two seasons, Da Silva is arguably Orlando’s biggest success story and it is nowhere even near being finished. The 19-year-old is the first player to jump from the Orlando City Academy to OCB to Orlando City, and this season it’s been clear why. A look at the stats sheet tells you that Da Silva was second in shots and games played and led the young Lions in assists, starts, chances created, and shots on goal. All those things are great accomplishments, but the real treat is seeing him play. In 2017, Da Silva showed that he was one of the most talented players in USL, but he is not quite ready for MLS. Sure, he had games where he was quiet — the season finale against Tampa, for example — but expect the academy product to get some minutes with the MLS side in 2018 after his performances this year.

One thing that needs to be looked at with Da Silva is his disciplinary record. Not only did he commit the most fouls on OCB this year, but his six yellows and two red cards are also cause for concern. Opponents tended to mark him closely and foul him often, but he needs to stay calm and not give up unnecessary fouls that can hurt the team.

Midfielder: Richie Laryea

Laryea spent most of the year with the MLS side, so he was a tough one. On one hand, he only played 12 games in the USL, but he finished second in goals and fourth in assists among OCB players. When Laryea was in, he was constantly changing the game and one of the better players. His standout performances in USL earned him 10 games in MLS.

Midfielder: Austin Martz

On a roster that was constantly changing, Martz was one of the few constants. The 25-year-old played in 30 of OCB’s 32 games, making 22 starts. Of his 30 appearances, he only went the full 90 minutes 12 times so, moving forward, that is something that will need to increase. However, he did what was needed of him in each game and could be counted on to perform his role. In those 12 games that Martz played the full 90, the young Lions went 7-1-4, and OCB failed to win both games that Martz did not take part in. Additionally, his versatility was key, and he filled in on the back line this season, as well as playing in his natural midfield position.

Midfielder: Jordan Schweitzer

The 23-year-old played in 24 games in 2017, and his season could be summarized in his call up to the Canadian National Team. Schweitzer’s touch is arguably the best on the team, and he rarely gives the ball up in possession, leading to an 85% passing accuracy. That 85% is second-best among players that played at least 15 games, and just 1% behind Conor Donovan, whose majority of passes were inside OCB’s own half. Schweitzer finished with just one goal and one assist, but was in the top 10 in all the key defensive statistics — clearances, blocks, interceptions, and tackles. Schweitzer could have done a little more on the attacking end of the field, but playing the majority of the time in one of the holding midfield roles limited him in that area. Overall, Schweitzer was one of the best young Lions in 2017.

Midfielder: Lewis Neal

Neal is a tough one, as Paul Clowes could have definitely been in this spot. However, Neal gets the edge for his leadership and teaching role on the team, as well as playing the third-most minutes for OCB, behind only Da Silva and Edwards. Many times the game seemed to go through Neal, which culminated in him finishing the season with the most passes on OCB. The 36-year-old veteran was not always the best player on the field — and he may not be back in 2018 — but as the captain of a young, developmental team, his leadership should not be undervalued. He finished the year with three goals and three assists in 24 appearances.

Forward: Hadji Barry

Another obvious choice, Barry was one of the best players for OCB. The UCF product led the team in goals (10) and scored more than three times more than the next-highest player. Barry showed flashes of why Orlando City drafted him, and dominated the games most of the time when he was in. Similar to Da Silva, Barry’s quality is above most of the USL players, but not good enough for MLS yet. After a successful 2017 season, Barry should be rewarded with on-and-off time on the MLS squad in 2018.