clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2018 Provides Less Opportunity for Trialists at Orlando City

Orlando City dropping OCB means there will be less spots for young trialists.

Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The 2018 preseason is well underway with Orlando City now having completed two matches. But one thing is very different this year from the previous two; the lack of opportunities for the young trialists. With fewer spots to compete for, it will be more difficult for them to win a place and this may result in Orlando City missing out on a future first-team player.

While most people focus on first-team players gaining experience and young players developing, another key aspect of a reserve team is that it provides a place for those that don’t make the MLS squad but who the club still has interest in. Every year, several trialists play with MLS teams around the country hoping to receive a professional contract. Most don’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a future with the club.

When these players appear for the clubs, very few know who they are. Should they be good, clubs will usually either call them a “guest” or “trialist” to maintain a low profile. Oftentimes, these players play a few preseason friendlies and are released. However, there are times when they make enough of an impression to make the team.

A popular trialist to make a team was Mike Grella. After bouncing around the lower leagues in England and playing a spell in Denmark, Grella returned to the United States where he played for the Carolina Railhawks. Not offered an MLS contract, Grella joined the New York Red Bulls in 2015 and ended up making the team. He would make 33 appearances with 30 starts that season, and 32 appearances with 28 starts a year later, becoming a regular in the starting lineup of a perennial playoff team.

While Grella was an older player of 29 at the time, there are other quality players that join clubs as trialists and are overlooked. U.S. soccer clubs have a long history of overlooking excellent players who either make a name for themselves overseas or eventually do so in the United States. A lot of these players are young and didn’t attend a major college or picked up the sport later on in their youth.

If a trialist doesn’t seem quite good enough to make the MLS roster, or there are too few spots available, the reserve team is a great landing spot. They’ll be able to play regularly with players that have MLS experience and play as a professional. The USL has already proven to be a great developmental league for players not ready for the first division. It could also help to unearth some incredible talent.

Unfortunately for Orlando City, OCB took a hiatus in 2018, meaning that the trialists currently with the club will not have that opportunity. Should one or two shine in the preseason games, the only option is to release the players and hope they don’t become another Grella. Orlando City fans will be hoping that doesn’t happen.