It’s been a difficult season for Orlando City B this year. The team has nearly secured the bottom spot in the USL League One standings and is in the middle of the worst stretch in its three-year history. Despite the on-field struggles, the team continues to maintain a positive outlook.
The priority of OCB this season is to develop players. Specifically, it’s to develop the players that have come out of the club’s academy. Nine players on the OCB roster this season came out of the club’s academy, though not all are still here. Four academy products started for OCB in its 2-1 loss to Lansing Ignite FC Friday night and another came off the bench.
While the primary focus may not be on winning games, it is definitely beneficial. The number of losses suffered by the team this season has had a noticeable impact on the young players, who have looked defeated at times. When a team trails by multiple goals, which OCB has in 10 of its 22 games, it can cause players to lose hope and forget what they’ve learned in training.
The team is currently on a six-game losing streak and has lost 11 of its last 12 games. The Young Lions have only gained one point during that stretch thanks to a late goal by Tresor Mbuyu against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on July 10. It would be easy to say that the team has given up on the season and is focused on the future, which includes a move next year. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Accumulating just 13 points so far this season, OCB is currently 10 points behind Toronto FC II, the ninth-place team in the 10-team league. Qualification for the playoffs has long been out of the picture but that’s not the only thing the team has to fight for. After a tough season, finishing above last place could be considered a victory.
“We all care so much about each other and about the club that we don’t want to finish at the bottom,” OCB vice captain Koby Osei-Wusu said after the team’s loss to South Georgia Tormenta FC on July 24. “No matter what. There’s still games left. So if we can win a bunch of those, turn it around, we can end the season on a positive note.”
OCB has just six games left — one at home — and has since replaced its head coach. Regardless, turning things around is still in the minds of the players and staff.
“I think the key is already here, in that we have a very young team and we are working extremely hard,” OCB Interim Head Coach Roberto Sibaja said following the team’s loss Friday night. “The last three weeks have been hard work for these guys and slowly we’re turning things around. Hopefully, we’ll have enough time to turn things around before the end of the season.”
Although the results have not quite reflected it since the change, the team is adapting well to the shift in training and work with forward William Bagrou positive about the future.
“We got a new coaching staff and I think Roberto (Sibaja) is doing very well with us and training has been very, very good,” Bagrou added. “Very intense lately and I think the results these last six games are going to go our way.”
While that may seem idealistic of Bagrou to say, gathering some points to end the season isn’t out of the question. Next week the team travels to face FC Tucson, the only place it’s claimed any points away from home. Following its final home game, OCB will face Toronto FC II, a younger team that sits just ahead of the Young Lions in the standings.
It’s been a difficult year for OCB with only three wins and 13 total points. But it’s a positive that the team has yet to give up on finishing strong. The Young Lions have six more games to create some positive energy moving forward.