After going on hiatus for the 2018 USL season, Orlando City B returns this year to compete in its third season. With less than a week before the opening game, what can we expect from the Young Lions?
This version of OCB will be a bit different than what you may have been used to in the past. In previous seasons, the OCB roster was made up primarily of career USL players and first team players not receiving MLS minutes. The team will now be a connection between the club’s development academy and the first team. As such, the team will be much younger with a focus on development.
OCB is one of three teams in USL League One that serves as a development team for an MLS club. Its roster averages just under 20 years of age, placing it third youngest in the league behind Toronto FC II and North Texas SC. The youngest player, Luc Granitur, is 15 years old, second youngest in the league after Toronto FC II’s Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who is just 14 years old.
Of the 25-man roster, only eight have played professionally before. This is in contrast with the seven senior teams in the league that feature experienced rosters. As such, it will be difficult for the Young Lions to compete on the field with older and more experienced players. Only four of the league’s 10 teams will compete in the postseason and it will be difficult for any of the three development teams to claim any of those spots.
While you shouldn’t expect results on the field, you should expect development of many of the team’s younger players. Whether they’ve been playing in an academy or in college, most of the team has been facing off against similarly aged opponents. This year, they will be facing players that are much older and have much more experience, entering or already in their prime years. Facing opponents that are older and bigger than them should prepare them for playing professionally, however.
What you won’t see this season is players on the MLS roster making any appearances for OCB. While they have in the past, the club has made a point of stating that the new system is all about upward movement. The goal is for players to come out of the academy, join OCB, and eventually sign an MLS contract with the first team. Any first team players that need to gain experience will go elsewhere, as has already happened with goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar going on loan to the USL’s Tulsa Roughnecks, and midfielder Pierre Da Silva, loaned out to Brazil’s Club Athletico Paranaense.
Orlando City fans should be excited about the return of OCB. Playing at nearby Montverde Academy and broadcast by ESPN+, the team will be easily accessible. It will provide a chance to watch some of the best players to come out of the academy and hopefully become future first team players. While a winning record shouldn’t be expected — any accomplishments in the standings will just be icing on the cake — success will be measured by the visible development of the young players. Regardless of the results, this will provide a reason to watch throughout the season.