As Orlando City B sets up for a free kick just outside of the Rochester Rhinos box at Capelli Sport Stadium, two teenagers line up over the ball. Both have been wreaking havoc to the Rhinos defense and either could step up and take a deadly strike at goal. This scene doesn’t just represent the present for OCB, but the future for Orlando City SC.
The first two field players to come out of the Orlando City academy and sign with OCB are Pierre Da Silva and Joe Gallardo. While neither is considered a Homegrown Player, as they both appeared for the U.S. U-17 National Team prior to joining the academy, both spent time in the Orlando City youth ranks and are quickly becoming stars in the USL. While both of these young players may have similar potential, they took two very different paths to the City Beautiful.
A native of Port Chester, NY, Da Silva spent his early development years from nine to 14 in the hotbed of Brazil with the vaunted Santos FC youth setup. When he returned to the United States, the midfielder split his time between New York SC and the U.S. U-17 National Residency Program in Bradenton, FL. The switch to the Lions came in 2015 when Da Silva joined the club’s U-17/18 academy team, signing for OCB for the 2016 season.
Joe Gallardo was born in San Diego and quickly became one of the best young strikers in the country. He was spotted by Mexican club CF Monterrey at 14 years of age, while playing with the U.S. U-15 National Team at the 2011 Dallas Cup, and was quickly signed to Monterrey’s academy. He starred in the 2013 Nike Friendlies, scoring a hat trick against England. While Gallardo was on his rise, he suffered a broken leg in 2014, which allowed other players, like Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright, to supplant him as the country’s best young forwards. Then, in 2016, Gallardo joined the Orlando City U-17/18 academy team.
This year, both 18-year-old Da Silva and 19-year-old Gallardo have shown that they have the ability to be stars at the USL level, and may one day star for the Lions in MLS. Da Silva is a quick, skillful left-sided midfielder with great crossing ability and is dangerous when driving inside. Gallardo has the skill of a number 10 and the finishing ability of a number nine.
The skill of these two players was on full display Friday night in Rochester. It was Da Silva’s deft touches dribbling along the end line that set up Fernando Timbo for the game’s only goal. Gallardo also showed tremendous skill throughout the game, setting up some of the few chances the young Lions had. Both showed that they are ones to watch for the future.
While Da Silva and Gallardo are ineligible for Homegrown contracts, it is encouraging that the Lions are able to identify such good young talent and lure them to Central Florida. Meanwhile, the club is also growing an impressive Homegrown Player list that includes standouts at the academy level such as David Loera, Raul Aguilera, Isaque Couto, David Norris, and Landen Haig. The mixture of these two types of talented players show that OCB is a team to keep an eye on in the present and that the future of Orlando City looks bright.