On July 25, Orlando City B parted ways with Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita. The club’s under-19 coach, Roberto Sibaja, was named interim head coach to finish out the season. With any hope of the postseason gone before his arrival, Sibaja has found new goals for his team.
To say that OCB has had a difficult season would be an understatement. The team didn’t get its first win until the eighth game of the season. After a strong run of three wins in four games, it’s lost 12 of its last 13.
Sibaja came into a situation where the team gained only one point in its previous eight games. The Young Lions sat at the bottom of the USL League One standings despite having played the most games of any team in the league. With the possibility of the playoffs out of the picture, there had to be something to work towards.
The purpose of OCB is to develop the club’s young academy players. Ideally, a couple of those players will eventually play with the first team in MLS. During tough stretches of the season, Argila spoke about working on aspects of the game, such as defending with the ball and playing within the identity of the team. Sibaja has his own goals for the remainder of the season.
Concentrating for 90 minutes has been a problem for OCB this season. The team has dropped points on multiple occasions because it’s failed to remain focused for the entirety of the game. This type of discipline is something Sibaja says he hopes to improve with the team’s remaining games.
After conceding a first half goal Friday night against North Texas SC, a Lucas Ontivero corner kick found the head of center back Brandon John. After appearing dead in the first 45 minutes, the team had sparked to life with a tactical and philosophy change at the half.
Just 52 seconds after equalizing, North Texas SC found the back of the net through Ronaldo Damus.
“They were very excited about the goal,” Sibaja said about the play. “And they were not able to connect right away in order for us to defend.”
After conceding 72% of possession in the first half, OCB found its footing in the game and played much better. It held onto the ball and created chances, something that eluded the team in the first half. The inability to stay focused after equalizing cost the team a crucial goal and had a major impact on the game. It’s something that Sibaja attributes to the team’s discipline.
“We’ve been working and understanding that discipline is key,” Sibaja said after Friday night’s 3-1 loss. “Without having discipline, we’re not going to be able to take a step forward. These guys have had, obviously, a bit of a difficult season. But understanding that the defensive discipline is going to be key for us to take a step forward in the next games.”
“Discipline is key,” Sibaja continued. “In order for us to be disciplined — disciplined means from the moment we get out of the locker room until the moment that we get back to the locker room to shower after the game. Play by play. Pass by pass. Tackle by tackle. Shot by shot. Cross by cross. The discipline has to be there for 90-plus minutes.”
Despite the short amount of time that Sibaja has with this team, he says that he sees improvements and believes the young players will continue to make strides the rest of the way. This could make his tenure as head coach in 2019 a successful one, regardless of the results.
“The lack of discipline is getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re running against time because I’ve only worked with the team for four weeks or so. If we’re able to at least change those habits towards the end of the season — because right now the playoffs is not an option — then we’ve gained something in the eight or nine weeks that I will be heading this team.”
OCB only has four weeks remaining this season and each game is on the road. That limits the amount of time that Sibaja will have with the young team this season. Nonetheless, he says he will continue working to improve his players.
“I was hired by Orlando City to work and I will work until the end. I will not give up because the main idea is to improve human beings through soccer and make them try to compete in this league and something above this league.”