The path is always hardest when first traveled. Last Saturday, Pierre Da Silva became the first player to travel the path from Pro Academy to Orlando City B to Orlando City. Since he is the first, his journey has great significance. It’s human nature — people remember firsts. Moving forward, Da Silva’s name will be synonymous with OCSC player development.
The Orlando City organization often speaks of the goal of having a clear path from academy to Major League Soccer for prospects. A key component for that goal is to prove that its even possible. Until someone actually does it, it’s hard for some to see an end in sight.
That is why the performance of Da Silva is so important to OCSC. His success isn’t just about him, but about the future of the club. The timing of his debut maximized the media coverage when the news broke while MLS was on a break and all eyes are on him.
Now, Da Silva’s success or failure will resonate louder than any other player. Today, perception may be even more important than truth. If Da Silva is great, then the OCSC youth development program is great.
OCSC is a smart organization. It knows it has to put pressure on Da Silva. The fact that it feels comfortable doing that speaks as to what kind of player the organization thinks he is.
The irony of the whole situation is that, by all accounts, Da Silva was a great player before joining the Orlando Pro Academy. He lived in Brazil from the age nine to 14, where he played for the instruction youth club Santos FC — the same club that produced Neymar of Barcelona.
Then, Da Silva was part of the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, FL. He joined the Orlando Pro Academy in 2015, but that same year he participated in the U-17 World Cup. So, in reality, during his year at the Orlando Pro Academy, he was gone a significant amount of time.
It doesn’t matter where Pierre Da Silva was trained because talent development is only one aspect of the process. OCSC is the team that believed in Da Silva and is giving him his chance. So it’s only right that the club reaps the benefits.
If Da Silva is successful in MLS, it will reverberate throughout the organization. Academy players will know they are on the right path, and Orlando City B players should feel confident that they are so close to the promising end goal. It’s always easier following a path that’s been made versus blazing a trail. That concept will also help with attracting future talent.
In contrast, if Pierre doesn’t pan out, then it’ll make it that much harder for the next young player to believe he can make it at Orlando City. In addition, that scenario could potentially cause current academy players to question whether the organization can help them achieve their own soccer goals. That could lead to problems not only keeping, but attracting new talent as well.
OCSC is heavily invested in Da Silva beyond just money. It’s put its reputation on the line. Considering it is a relatively new organization, that is quite a big step. It’s gone all-in on his future.
Whatever Da Silva does will be magnified. He is the symbol of OCSC’s next generation. It may seem like a lot of pressure for an 18-year-old, but he seems ready to handle it. The organization raves about his skill and work ethic. Those characteristics bode well for him to reach his full potential, and also make the OCSC youth development program look good in the process.