What do Mikey Ambrose, Tony Rocha, Pierre Da Silva, and Leo Pereira all have in common? Apart from all being former or current Orlando City players, they have all spent time being developed by Anthony Pulis at Orlando City B.
The OCB head coach has gotten some scrutiny from fans after the young Lions failed to win big matches, most notably the 2017 season-opener in Tampa. However, Pulis has shown that he is the perfect man for the job.
To start, let’s review how to define a successful season for the young Lions. It is not the number of wins or losses. As I stated back in April, OCB was not built with the lone goal of winning championships. OCB is a developmental side, used to bring young talent through and give first-team members game time when they come back from injuries or to remain match fit.
Through less than one and a half seasons, Pulis has graduated four players from his side to Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis’ team. Ambrose and Rocha saw big MLS minutes at the end of 2016. Ambrose came and filled in at left back after Kreis moved Brek Shea back into the attack. As a result, Ambrose looked as if he would cement the left back spot for himself, but Atlanta saw the potential in the 23-year-old defender and drafted him seventh overall in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft.
Da Silva is the first player to go completely through the Orlando City ranks, from the academy, to OCB, and then Orlando City. The midfielder has yet to make a first-team impact, but he’s shown he has the potential to become an MLS starter.
Pereira is the newest Lion to make the jump from the USL side to MLS, and has started the past two games for Kreis and proven he is capable of playing at this level. Pereira bailed out Servando Carrasco a few times in the Sporting Kansas City match and led the team in pass attempts and clearances.
But before these four players made the jump to MLS, they had another thing in common: they all succeeded under Pulis. With OCB, all four players were important pieces to the young Lions’ game. Da Silva led the team in assists in 2016. Rocha and Ambrose were vital to the team a year ago, and when they were not in the game, their absences were felt. Pereira was brought in this year on loan, and his raw skill and size were a factor in both the attack and defense.
Moving forward, this is exactly what the club needs. Developing young talent, instead of buying it, is one of the club’s goals, and through Pulis it has already happened four times in about a season and a third. With the Englishman at the helm of the developmental squad, promising players such as Richie Laryea, Joe Gallardo, Michael Cox, Hadji Barry, Zach Carroll, and Earl Edwards, Jr. could blossom into future first-teamers.
The future for Orlando City looks bright.