After a year’s hiatus, Orlando City B returned in 2019 as an integral part of Orlando City’s player development system. Forming the link between the club’s development academy and first team, OCB allows young players to continue within the club’s structure until they’re ready to join the MLS side.
It’s been a difficult 2019 season for OCB. The team only claimed three wins and four draws in its 21 games. While winning isn’t the most important thing for OCB, its current losing streak may be hindering the development of its players.
The primary purpose of OCB is to develop players for the first team. In a league that features independent teams and developmental sides, it can be expected for a young team to struggle. But when struggling turns into a long winless streak, it may affect the initial goal of player development.
After a tough start that saw the Young Lions go winless during their first seven games, the team seemed to hit its stride as it went on a four-game unbeaten streak and won three of those games. On June 12, the team conceded two goals in the final three minutes of the first half against FC Tucson, eventually losing 2-1. It was the beginning of a downward spiral that continued Saturday night.
A home-heavy schedule early in the year meant that the team will spend most of the second half of the season on the road. That’s a problem for a team that has only gained one point away from Montverde Academy and now has a -17 goal differential in those games. Following their June 7 win over Forward Madison FC, the Young Lions lost four consecutive games. An injury time goal on July 10 by Tresor Mbuyu pulled off a 1-1 draw against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC but that’s the last point the team has earned. The Lions went on to lose the next five games, only scoring in a 4-1 loss to South Georgia Tormenta FC.
The most important thing for OCB is to allow its young players, especially academy players, to gain professional experience. With many of the players at 17, 18, and 19 years of age, they’re still in the middle of their development. As such, there are several things that each player must work on. With this in mind, there will be times where the team may not seem to play well and may struggle to contend for a playoff spot. But at some point, that losing becomes a negative.
While winning is not the most important thing for OCB, there are some benefits that can be gained with success. Winning games provides confidence in players which can influence them to continue working harder on their craft. Losing can be demoralizing. This could be very troublesome as the players may tend to lose focus on why they’re on the team in the first place, to gain experience and work on developing their play.
In some ways, it may be good to struggle at times during the season. They will undoubtedly struggle at times during their careers and it’s good for them to be able to review their performances and learn how to improve. But the consistent losing that OCB has suffered this season may be more detrimental. In games like Saturday night, where the team fell behind by two goals inside the first 15 minutes, it may cause the players to force play in an attempt to get back into the game, forgetting what they’ve learned in training.
Constantly falling behind in games will also hurt their ability to learn how to defend a lead. During the early parts of the season, former OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita spoke multiple times about defending with the lead and closing out games. The last time OCB had a lead was 11 games ago, so it has not been able to work on that aspect of its game in nearly two months.
The purpose of OCB is to help young talent with the goal of developing future first team players. While winning is not the primary focus of this team, the constant struggle the players have faced for most of this season may be more detrimental than the club would like. It’s an issue that will need to be solved to continue working toward the team’s ultimate goal.