Last week, Orlando City striker Cyle Larin was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Because of his arrest, Larin must complete the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) program before he will be eligible to play again. The Lions may also lose two additional team members in center back Jonathan Spector and goalkeeper Joe Bendik to the U.S. national team for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. While these losses will hurt the senior team, it will also create opportunities for young players at Orlando City B.
The purpose of OCB is not just to give senior team bench players playing time, but also to develop young players from the academy. USL rules allow teams to have academy players play with the side without signing a professional contract and Orlando City has taken advantage of that. Since the team’s founding last year, several players from the U-17/18 academy team have played with OCB.
With the possibility of Larin, Bendik, and Spector all missing time, some players from OCB may be needed on the first team. This may include goalkeeper Earl Edwards, Jr., center back Conor Donovan, and striker Hadji Barry. And those spots on OCB might be filled with some academy players.
If Bendik makes the Gold Cup team, Josh Saunders and Earl Edwards, Jr. will be the two goalkeepers for the MLS side with Jake Fenlason likely starting for OCB. But his backup will be a young player. The likely choices will either be Homegrown product Mason Stadjuhar or Aaron Smith, the latter of whom was on the bench for the young Lions last week when they played Toronto FC II.
David Loera has not just seen significant minutes for OCB, but has also started games for the side. Allen Seals entered the game against Toronto FC II last week and Joe Gallardo was signed by OCB prior to the 2017 season while still playing games for the U-17-18 academy team. With spots on Anthony Pulis’ bench needing to be filled, all three of these players may be called in.
Right now, most of the OCB roster is occupied by players that the MLS team has no control over. To gain control, it must sign them to MLS contracts which, in some cases, may involve trading for their rights with another MLS club. If Orlando City is handling OCB correctly, eventually the team will be filled with players out of the academy, working to make their way to the senior team. We’re now seeing the first big wave of players graduating the academy that could be Homegrown Players and play for OCB.
It’s easy to look at the four or so games that Larin, Bendik, and Spector may miss negatively, but there are also some positives to it. One of the main reasons OCB exists is to give young academy products professional minutes as they continue to develop and work toward the MLS team. These three absences will likely cause call-ups by Orlando City from OCB, leaving spots open in the team, and those spots may be filled by recent academy products. Only good can come from such a situation for these young players.