Orlando City B traveled back to Texas for the second time in three weeks to take on North Texas SC. Saturday afternoon’s opponent is the developmental side of FC Dallas. Those who watched the 4-1 win by the home side saw some very talented attacking players by the opposition and OCB’s ultimate goal.
In recent years, MLS academies have grown exponentially and teams are investing more than ever as they try to raise the newest MLS Homegrown star. The two teams that have been the most successful in developing Homegrown talent are the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas. Famous for developing Tyler Adams and Weston McKinney, who both now play in Germany’s Bundesliga, the developmental sides are littered with academy products, as are the first teams.
When Orlando City decided to drop its second team to the new third division USL League One, it did so with a plan in mind. The second division team was mainly filled with first team players not receiving minutes and career USL players. The idea of moving down a level is to fill the team with academy products that would be developed for the first team.
A standard bearer of the Homegrown movement in MLS, FC Dallas launched North Texas SC this season as its developmental side. While OCB has eight players on the roster that came through the club’s academy, North Texas SC had 11 on Saturday’s 16-man team sheet.
The reason for the short bench is that some of their regulars were playing elsewhere this weekend. Brandon Servania and Thomas Roberts, two players that took part in the first game between these two teams, played on the same field earlier in the day as FC Dallas took on the New York Red Bulls. The league’s leading scorer, Ricardo Pepi, is an FC Dallas academy graduate that scored four goals in his first two professional games earlier this year. He’s currently with the U.S. U-17 national team at the Concacaf Championship.
Despite missing some of the team’s most potent offensive weapons, North Texas put on an offensive display in the second half. The team was led by the creative Arturo Rodriguez and the striking ability of Johan Gomez and second-half substitute Ronaldo Damus. The combination was too much to handle as they scored four unanswered goals in the final 21 minutes.
While the performance of the young team was impressive, even more so was the fact that seven of their 11 starters and four of their five substitutes came out of the academy, including every attacking player. In comparison, OCB had three starters and two substitutes out of the academy, despite having two more players on the team sheet.
It’s unrealistic to expect Orlando City’s academy to compete with FC Dallas yet. The Texas-based club launched its academy in 2008, three years before Orlando City existed and four years before it had its own academy. While the Lions have signed two Homegrown Players out of their academy, Mason Stajduhar and Benji Michel, FC Dallas has now signed 25 Homegrown Players who were developed by the club.
What Orlando City fans saw in North Texas SC Saturday afternoon is what Orlando City aspires to become. Part of moving the club’s academy to Montverde Academy and the hiring of former FC Dallas Technical Director Luiz Muzzi was to move closer to this goal. The Muzzi hiring was especially telling as he spent the previous six years at FC Dallas as director of soccer and assistant technical director with the club that perfected the art of developing Homegrown talent. Muzzi’s interest in developing players is shown in his attendance at every OCB game.
It will likely be a while before Orlando City gets to the point where it is able to develop the Homegrown talent that FC Dallas has done over the past few years. If you want to see what the goal of the organization is when it comes to Homegrown talent, look no further than the team the club played Saturday afternoon.