After taking a hiatus from playing in 2018, Orlando City B will return to the field in 2019, joining the USL’s new third division league. The first step in the team’s resurrection occurred this week when the new head coach was announced.
OCB was founded in 2015 and began play as Orlando City’s second team the following season. Playing in the second division USL, the team sheets mostly consisted of first-team players needing quality minutes and USL players not controlled by the club. Later in the season, the club brought in some academy players to provide professional experience.
Part of the reason why OCB was formed was to create a link between the academy and the first team. But during the team’s first two seasons of existence, only one player came out of the academy, through OCB, and into the first team — Pierre Da Silva. Goalkeeper Mason Stadjuhar was signed by the club to a Homegrown contract but never made an appearance for OCB.
With the announcement that the USL was creating a third division league, something that the American soccer pyramid was lacking following the ascension of USL to the second tier, OCB made the decision to forego playing in 2018 and come back a year later. The reasoning, according to Orlando City General Manager Niki Budalic, was that the younger rosters and developmental focus of the new league would fit the club’s ambition of filling the roster with academy graduates and developing them for the first team.
Once the club’s return and new location were announced, they had to find the right head coach. Given the purpose of OCB, the person to take charge had to be someone that would be willing to focus on development over results and would understand the club’s philosophy on developing players. That person was already working within the club.
When Orlando City moved its development academy to Montverde Academy, the man to take charge of player development was Mike Potempa. A former United States youth player and draft pick of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Potempa joined Montverde Academy in 2010 as the varsity boys soccer coach. Under his leadership, the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA) has won seven straight national high school titles and has routinely sent players to professional teams, including the USL, MLS, and European leagues.
Included in the news announcing OCB’s return was that Potempa would be the team’s general manager, and he wasted no time getting started. On Wednesday, the club announced that SIMA coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita would lead OCB.
On paper, it appears that De Argila couldn’t be more suited for this position. A former head coach and technical director of FC Barcelona’s academy, arguably the best in the world, De Argila joined SIMA following a string of coaching stints for professional teams around Europe. For the past three years, he’s been coaching at the academy under Potempa.
Given his extensive background in youth development, De Argila appears to be the ideal coach for what will essentially be a U-23 team for Orlando City. With Potempa running the academy in Montverde, the transition should be smooth as De Argila has been working with him and already understands the philosophy set in place since the club’s merger with the private school.
Additionally, the transition should be smooth for the players that will be joining OCB. According to comments by Budalic and Potempa over the past few months, the roster next season should be full of players that have come through the academy. Considering that De Argila is moving up from being the head coach of Orlando City’s U-19 team, many of the players that play for the team or have played with the PDL side SIMA Aguilas will already be familiar with De Argila.
Most importantly, this hiring shows that Orlando City is focusing on the right aspects of OCB. While teams like FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls, and the Philadelphia Union continue to produce Homegrown players for the first team, Orlando City has found this process troublesome. It’s one thing to say that you want a roster filled with Homegrown talent, but it’s another to actually accomplish that. The appointment of De Argila shows that the club wants to create continuity between the academy and the first team, including OCB.
Leading up to and following the announcement that OCB would be returning in 2019, multiple figures at the club have emphasized the developmental aspect. However, actions speak louder than words and the club needed to put the right man in charge. With the appointment of De Argila, the club is backing up its words with action.