As expected, it’s been a tough season for Orlando City B. The developmental team for Orlando City currently sits in ninth place of the 10 teams with just 13 points and 11 games remaining. The Young Lions are 11 points behind Chattanooga Red Wolves SC for the final playoff position and have played the most games in the league with 17. While their playoff hopes appear to be dead, OCB’s players still have much to play for.
OCB had a very home heavy schedule early this season, which makes the back half of the schedule more difficult. The Young Lions have seen minimal success this season away from the friendly confines of Montverde Academy. In six games away from home this season, OCB has only claimed one point and scored in two games. The one point came on May 31 at FC Tucson, during the lone, short period of success this season. The other goal was scored on May 11 at North Texas SC. That game saw the home side score four unanswered goals to defeat OCB, 4-1.
Having played 17 games in a 28-game season, OCB has 11 games remaining and only three are at home. Given the team’s struggles on the road this season, it’s difficult to see them getting many points out of those other eight games. It would be surprising to see them get even 11 more points this season, making it nearly impossible to catch the fourth position.
Despite the fact that there is little chance at making the postseason during the first year of USL League One, there is still much to play for for these Young Lions. Many of the players on the team are academy graduates or young players. Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi has stated and shown his commitment to developing Homegrown Players. His presence at nearly every OCB game shows he’s keeping a close eye on each one of the players.
There are several academy graduates who have had strong seasons and shown tremendous growth during their first professional campaign. This has undoubtedly caught the eye of both Muzzi and Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor. While they may not be making the playoffs this season, they still have the ability to make an impression on a club that is more interested in academy graduates than ever before.
This also creates a challenge for OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose de Argila Irurita. In order for these young players to catch the eye of the club’s bosses, they must receive playing time. At the same time, these players are very young so you don’t want to rush them into situations that could hinder their development. Additionally, there are some older players that are essential to the development of these young players.
While a coach can work hands on with the players during training, you really see what these players can do when they go up against competition. A coach is limited in what he can do with players during a game, so he trusts the older players to be coaches on the field.
Argila has several of these players. William Bagrou, Koby Osei-Wusu, Rafael Santos, and Randy Mendoza are some of these veteran leaders. Recently, Brandon John, a player with a lot of professional experience for a 24-year-old, has rejoined the lineup after recovering from a serious knee injury. The veterans in the team are essential for the development of the young players, something that Argila has spoken about several times throughout the season.
The challenge for Argila is finding the right balance the rest of the season. Academy products like defender Nathan Simeon and midfielder Moises Tablante have been very good this season, showing that they clearly have a future with the club. Jordan Bender, Luc Granitur, and Ates Diouf, among others, are still young and have tons of potential to be great first-team players.
Argila will want to provide opportunities for these players moving forward to show off what they can do to those in charge at Orlando City, but he must be aware of their development. He will also have to put some of the veteran leaders in the games to be an example.
The role of these veteran leaders is very clear to them. Forward Osei-Wusu and defender Matheus Silva have both spoken this season about their roles as leaders and helping the young players develop. While they want to further their own careers, they understand that they were brought here to help the young players develop into potential first-team members.
As we enter the final stretch of the 2019 USL League One season, OCB finds itself near the bottom of the table with no way to get into the playoff race. Despite this disappointment, there is still much for the young players to play for. During the final 11 games of the season, we’ll see how these players develop and who stands out as potential first-team contributors.