When Orlando City B was formed in 2015, the goal was giving playing time for first team players rather than Homegrown development. That changed slightly in 2017 when the team featured young players like Pierre Da Silva and Ryley Kraft. But it’s another player on that 2017 team that might end up being the one who got away.
Born in San Diego, Joe Gallardo joined the youth academy of Liga MX club CF Monterrey. In 2016, the teenager moved back to the United States, joining Orlando City’s development academy. A year later, he was signed to OCB. He made seven appearances and three starts during the 2017 USL season, tallying 261 total minutes.
OCB went on hiatus during the 2018 season as it waited for the new USL League One to launch, but Gallardo didn’t travel far. The young attacker stayed local, playing with SIMA Aguilas at Montverde Academy. That team was coached by Mike Potempa and featured a number of other Orlando City academy graduates.
Heading into the 2019 USL League season, it was assumed that Gallardo would remain at the club and play for the resurrected OCB. However, the club let him go and he went on to join another League One club, the Richmond Kickers.
Gallardo had a very strong year for the Kickers in 2019. In 25 games, he tallied a team-leading six goals and two assists as he played alongside former Orlando City striker Dennis Chin. At the end of the season, he was named to the USL League One All-League First Team.
The Real Monarchs, Real Salt Lake’s team in the USL Championship, announced the acquisition of Gallardo from Richmond this past Thursday. His strong season in 2019 and move up to the second division for 2020 shows that the 21-year-old is a young player developing on an upward trajectory. But he’s not doing it where Orlando City fans would like.
When Luiz Muzzi joined Orlando City, one of the first things he spoke of was keeping talented young players at home. Building on what he had done at FC Dallas, the best MLS club at developing players for the first team, Muzzi said he wanted to move players from the academy through OCB and eventually to the first team.
While Gallardo would’ve been one of the older players on OCB this year, he’s a similar age to the players who were on loan from Brazil. A young player the club has a chance of signing to the first team is preferable to players who have almost no chance of singing.
Despite coming out of the academy, Gallardo wouldn’t have been eligible to sign a Homegrown Player contract. This is because he played for the United States U-17 National Team prior to joining Orlando City’s academy. However, since he had not previously been in an MLS academy, the club would not have had to make a trade to acquire his rights.
Orlando City is a smaller market team with owners who have publicly said they’re not on the same financial level as competitors. This means that Orlando City needs to develop its own talent to contend with those bigger clubs. The Orlando City front office cannot afford to let young, talented players like Gallardo slip away.
It’s unknown how Gallardo’s future will end up. Clearly, RSL feels like he has the potential to become an MLS quality player. If that eventually happens, he’ll end up being one of the first important players that Orlando City missed out on.