When Orlando City formed its partnership with the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy, its director of soccer, Mike Potempa, became a key factor in the club’s youth development. That role’s been extended as he was recently named the general manager of Orlando City B. He brings with him a strong link to the soccer program of a certain South Carolina college in his role with the club.
During his collegiate years, Potempa was a three-time All American and captain for the Clemson University men’s soccer team. After his European soccer career was cut short by injury, he returned to serve as an assistant coach at his alma mater under Trevor Adair. In 2010, Potempa joined SIMA and quickly made the program into a national power, sending several players to some of the country’s top soccer schools.
Over the past few years, there has been a funnel of Montverde players finding their way to upstate South Carolina. In total, seven players have donned the Clemson orange. In 2015, the Tigers made it to the College Cup final as the nation’s second-ranked team before falling to the Jordan Morris-led Stanford Cardinal. That Clemson team included five former Montverde players, with two starting.
The most successful of this growing list of players so far is Costa Rican Diego Campos. After playing four years at Clemson, in which he recorded 23 goals and 22 assists in 81 games, Campos was drafted by the Chicago Fire with the 38th overall selection in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. During his rookie year, he became a regular for Veljko Paunović, playing in 23 games with 13 starts.
The Potempa connection extends a list of Clemson alumni that have already had an impact on Orlando City. It started with Ian Fuller, who attended the school from 1998 to 2001. Fuller was a leader on the original Lions in 2011 and quickly became the right-hand man for Adrian Heath. He served as a player-coach for the team for two years before becoming a full-time assistant and he is still with Heath today in Minnesota. The second former Tiger to don purple was Paul Clowes. With a collegiate career that lasted from 2012 to 2015, Clowes played for the Orlando City U-23s in 2013 and 2014, which included the team’s 2013 U.S. Open Cup run. Following graduation, he signed for Orlando City B, playing with the team during the 2017 season.
The connection between Orlando City and Clemson strengthened last Thursday when Oguchi Onyewu was hired as OCB’s technical director. While most people remember Onyewu from his years in Europe and on the U.S. Men’s National Team, he spent his pair of collegiate years at Clemson in 2000 and 2001. He was named first team All-ACC in both of those years and an NSCAA All-American in the latter. He was also a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
With OCB coming back in 2019 and Potempa in charge as general manager, the best of the club’s academy will be signed to professional contracts right away. However, others might develop at a slightly slower pace or prefer to attend college. With the strong ties between Orlando City and Clemson, that could be the destination for many in the future.