When the New York Red Bulls take the field today at Orlando City Stadium, those that follow the USL will be familiar with a few names. MLS teams that field USL sides talk about wanting to develop Homegrown talent while finding those that may have slipped through the cracks. The Red Bulls have done just that.
MLS-owned USL teams are largely seen as development sides, creating a connection between the academy and the first team. While this is the most obvious benefit, another reason is to find talent that hasn’t been grabbed by any other clubs. The USL is a competitive league that allows those players to display their skills and prove that they deserve a spot in the country’s first division.
The success of the Red Bulls in developing Homegrown talent has been well documented. The most famous of these academy alums is center back Matt Miazga who, after 34 appearances for the Red Bulls in MLS, was sold to English giants Chelsea. But he’s not the only one.
After coming through the Red Bulls academy, Sean Davis played his collegiate career at Duke University before joining the Red Bulls in 2015. Another Homegrown product, Tyler Adams, has seen even more success, becoming a regular for the United States U-17 and U-20 teams, and having already earned three caps for the United States senior team before reaching 20 years of age.
As impressive as the production of the academy has been, so has the ability of the club to use New York Red Bulls II to find players others have missed. A few of these players, which Orlando City fans may have seen face Orlando City B, are now regularly in the first team for the Red Bulls.
Four players that were initially signed to New York Red Bulls II and later signed with the senior team have already had an impact on this young MLS season. Vincent Bezecourt and Derrick Etienne have been on the team sheet in all three MLS games, with Bezecourt starting two and Etienne starting one while coming off the bench in the other two games. Florian Valot started last week against Minnesota and Stefano Bonomo came off the bench.
With the Red Bulls making a run into the Concacaf Champions League semifinals, some might claim that the impact of these players has been due to the increase in games. However, they’ve also had a say in Champions League bouts against Olimpia and Club Tijuana. In the four CCL games played recently, Valot or Etienne have on the team sheet in each.
The success of New York Red Bulls II is in stark contrast to Orlando City B. With only a year less of existence prior to this year’s hiatus, the young Lions have only produced one Homegrown Player that has seen the field for the first team and two OCB players that have signed.
Left back Mikey Ambrose and midfielder Tony Rocha both signed with OCB from the Austin Aztex prior to the 2016 season. During the USL team’s inaugural campaign, both players were signed to MLS contracts by the senior team. Both players did play a part for the first team with Ambrose taking the field five times and Rocha 10 times, which includes two U.S. Open Cup games. Prior to last season, Ambrose departed as he was selected by Atlanta United in the expansion draft. Rocha, meanwhile, came off the bench three times in MLS play.
The Lions’ success on the Homegrown front hasn’t been much better, with only one player advancing through the academy to OCB and the first team. Pierre Da Silva stood out in his first professional season as a future star, signing with the first team following the 2016 USL season. He spent much of last season with OCB, just seeing one minute of playing time for the first team. Coming off suspension against the Red Bulls, he’ll be looking to see more this season.
The New York Red Bulls have proven that with the right investment and staff, a USL team can be a tremendous asset for an MLS club. The New Jersey-based side has experienced success in every way with its second-division team: Homegrown talent, USL-signed players, and allowing senior team players playing time. With the return of OCB next season in the new USL third division league, Orlando City will be hoping it can replicate that success.