Orlando City B is winless through its first two games of 2017, losing to rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies, 1-0, and Louisville City, 3-1. Zero points through two games certainly has fans nervous about the season ahead, but is a losing record something to worry about?
OCB scraped into the USL playoffs in 2016 before falling hard to New York Red Bulls II. Last year was a success for many reasons, but making the playoffs was just a small one of them.
Of course, every team in the world wants to go out and win every game it can. No one said this better than Herm Edwards way back in 2002, with his famous “You play to win the game” speech. OCB is no different, and goes out every week playing the game to win.
But that is not the ultimate goal of OCB. Unlike Orlando City, OCB was not built with the lone goal of winning championships. OCB is a developmental side, used to develop young talent and give first-team members game time when they come back from injuries. 2016 was a success, not because the young Lions made the playoffs in their inaugural year, but because Tony Rocha, Mikey Ambrose, and Pierre Da Silva all graduated from the USL side into the top division.
To open the season, OCB lost the first I-4 Derby since 2014, and the team did not look particularly good in the loss. Head Coach Anthony Pulis wouldn’t make excuses for the loss and the way his team played, but I will. The team played all preseason together and then, days before the start of the campaign, was injected with new players sent down from the senior squad.
Getting these players game time and having another Rocha or Ambrose is what will mark 2017 as a success. If the young Lions lose every one of the I-4 Derbies this year, no, that would not be ideal, but it would not the end of the world. The real rivalry is when (if) Tampa gets into MLS and then faces the MLS Lions.
Earl Edwards Jr., Richie Laryea, Hadji Barry, Conor Donovan, and Danny Deakin need to be playing every week if they will ever break into the Orlando City first team. Without OCB, most would not be on the team at all.
OCB is also the next step in the academy system. Da Silva is the prime example of how this organization wants to build its team: develop players when they are young in the academy, sign them to the USL squad to get them professional minutes, and then move them up to the senior team.
When OCB loses, it is OK to be upset, but fans need to remember to look at the big picture. 2017 will be judged a success based on the talent that is developed, not by wins and losses. Pulis will not lose his job if his team fails to win, but if he can no longer move players from his team to Jason Kreis’ team.