Orlando City B has had two goalkeepers on the team sheet this season — Austin Aviza and Javier Otero. So far, Aviza has played every minute of the 2020 USL League One season but it might be time to consider making a change.
Orlando City selected Aviza in the second round of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft out of Providence College. The 23-year-old shot stopper made his rounds around college soccer before landing at Providence. After the draft, Aviza was signed to OCB as its starting goalkeeper.
A more experienced goalkeeper, it was obvious Aviza would start for OCB. Since he was a draft selection, Orlando City owns his MLS rights, so the goal is for him to develop into a goalkeeper who can play at the MLS level. He has the ability to do so but has also had some trouble with his concentration at times this year.
Aviza has had some great moments this season, where he’s made some wonderful saves and kept the Young Lions in games. His total of 21 saves this season ranks second in USL League One, only two behind Dylan Castanheira of Fort Lauderdale CF. But he’s also been the culprit in the loss of two points twice this season.
Against Fort Lauderdale CF, Aviza took his eye off the ball as it was played back late in the first half. This caused the young goalkeeper to misplay it with a heavy touch. Aviza opted to try to play it forward with Ricky Lopez-Espin closing rather than try to knock it safely out of play. Lopez-Espin blocked the attempted clearance and it trickled into the OCB net in an eventual 1-1 draw.
This concentration issue arose again on Friday night against South Georgia Tormenta FC, when Aviza took his eye off a pass back by Thomas Williams. As the goalkeeper looked up the field, the ball rolled under his foot and into the goal. OCB again finished with a 1-1 draw, dropping two points. The four points dropped from those two mistakes could have lifted OCB into fourth in USL League One. The Young Lions are currently 10th of 11 teams solely due to having a better goal differential than 11th-place New England Revolution II.
For many, it would seem like playing Aviza is a no-brainer because he’s a draft selection and Orlando City owns his rights. There’s been a shift in philosophy this season by OCB as most players receiving playing time are academy products or MLS SuperDraft picks. But few people know much about Aviza’s backup.
Otero has been on the OCB bench each game this season, but has yet to play a minute. The 17-year-old came out of the Orlando City academy and was placed on OCB’s roster for the 2020 season. Last year, Orlando City didn’t own the MLS rights of any OCB goalkeeper, so this wasn’t a problem. That’s why the primary starting goalkeeper was Juliano Chade, who was on loan. But this year, it has the MLS rights to all three goalkeepers on the roster — Aviza, Otero, and 16-year-old academy product Russell Robles.
At only 17 years of age, it’s possible that Otero isn’t quite ready to become the number one for OCB. It’s his first professional season and he’ll be in charge of a back line that regularly features two players in their 20s. That could be too much for the young goalkeeper to take on at this time. It could also be too early to put him in the net for a team that has struggled at times defensively, placing extra pressure on the goalkeeper.
However, you don’t know how the young goalkeeper will react until he’s put in. This year we’ve seen a 15-year-old defender and multiple 16-year-old attackers claim spots in the lineup. Some have risen to the occasion, like Wilfredo Rivera, while others have taken more time to adapt to the professional game. Since Aviza hasn’t yet been able to shed his momentary lapses of concentration, it might be time to give the younger goalkeeper some minutes.
No matter who starts in goal for OCB, the philosophy of developing players for the first team will stay intact. Along with the fact that Aviza has had some trouble with his concentration this season, it might be time to give the teenager a shot. That doesn’t mean Aviza will be discarded, because he’s shown his potential with some excellent saves, but a change in net Thursday night might be helpful.