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Former Orlando City Players to Follow in the 2021 USL Seasons

Orlando City owns the MLS rights of several players worth watching in the USL Championship and USL League One.

Birmingham Legion FC v North Carolina FC

Orlando City’s decision to withdraw Orlando City B from USL League One this year means that the club won’t have a team in the USL for the second time since 2016. While OCB won’t be participating in the league in 2021, there are still some reasons to watch the country’s professional lower leagues.

When a player is drafted into MLS, the club retains the player’s rights until they become a free agent or are traded. Orlando City has had several draft picks that didn’t work out and have ended up in the USL Championship or USL League One, the country’s second and third divisions. Since these players weren’t traded, the club still holds their MLS rights, even though it’s unlikely they’ll ever rejoin the club.

There are a couple of reasons why you might decide to follow these players. Some Orlando fans might hold out hope that they’ll eventually return to the club, while others might just want to see how their careers turn out after leaving Orlando. Regardless of why you watch, here are some players to keep an eye on this year.

Conor Donovan, D, OKC Energy

Conor Donovan was drafted with the 22nd overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft out of North Carolina State University. The defender showed a lot of promise, but was never able to get going. Just 10 minutes into his MLS debut, Donovan tore his ACL in a collision with Philadelphia Union forward C.J. Sapong, ending his rookie season.

That was the only MLS appearance Donovan made during his three years in Orlando. The only other first team appearance he made was on June 17, 2015, when he started in the team’s U.S. Open Cup game against the Charleston Battery.

Donovan did make himself a fixture for OCB when the team launched for the 2016 USL season. He took part in 34 games, starting 29, and scored a goal. He also played in OCB’s lone playoff appearance, a loss against New York Red Bulls II in 2016.

The former Orlando City defender has spent his time mostly in the USL Championship since leaving the Lions. He played for Rio Grande Valley FC and North Carolina FC before signing for the OKC Energy for the 2021 season.

Hadji Barry, F, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Hadji Barry was drafted with the 13th overall selection of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft out of UCF. The forward was drafted in the first round, along with Richie Laryea out of Akron. The two were expected to be part of Adrian Heath’s youth plan, but the head coach was fired during the 2016 season.

While Donovan played primarily with OCB, Barry found himself bouncing between the first and second team. In two years with the Lions, he made 11 MLS appearances with four starts, recording one assist. He did play in three U.S. Open Cup games as well, but never recorded any meaningful statistics.

Barry saw most of his success when he played with OCB. In two years, the forward made 28 appearances, starting 26 games. He scored 14 goals, recorded three assists, and played in the playoff loss against New York.

Since leaving Orlando, Barry has mostly played in the USL Championship. He’s spent time with Swope Park Rangers, the Ottawa Fury, and North Carolina FC. Similar to Donovan, Barry made a move heading into 2021, joining the Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Santiago Patiño, F, San Antonio FC

Prior to the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, Orlando City attempted to claim Santiago Patiño as a Homegrown Player. However, since he hadn’t spent enough time in the academy, Orlando had to draft the Florida International University forward with the third overall pick. Fans were excited about Patiño’s potential but his time in Orlando will largely be seen as a disappointment.

Patiño made 11 appearances with three starts during his rookie year, recording two goals and an assist. But the selection of Daryl Dike meant that there were too many strikers in the room for 2020. After only two appearances, Patiño was sent out on loan to Mexican second division side Cimarrones de Sonora.

Orlando City decided to let Patiño go on his way after last season. The striker landed quickly with San Antonio FC, where he’ll play the 2021 campaign.

Jonathan Dean, D, Birmingham Legion

Jonathan Dean is the only player on this list to have never made an appearance for Orlando City. The defender was selected with the 13th pick of the second round (39th overall) of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft but never made the first team nor OCB’s roster. The UCF product was the third player taken in the draft by Orlando City, following Dike and Joey DeZart, both of whom are still on the Lions’ MLS squad.

After being released by the club, Dean ended up with the Birmingham Legion of the USL Championship. Dean was a regular along the Legion back line last season, starting 17 games and accumulating 1,519 minutes. The 23-year-old will continue with the club for the 2021 season.

Austin Aviza, GK, Richmond Kickers

Goalkeeper Austin Aviza was drafted in the second round with the 44th overall pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. Selected out of Providence College, he joined OCB for the season as the first team already had three goalkeepers. Aviza immediately became the starter for the Young Lions, starting 11 games. The only games he didn’t start were when Mason Stajduhar came down for minutes and at the end of the season when the team gave time to academy product Javier Otero.

Following the decision to withdraw from the USL, Orlando City released the players who were not academy products, including Aviza. This off-season, he signed with the Richmond Kickers of USL League One. He’ll look to compete for a starting spot with longtime Kickers goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Nick O’Callaghan, D, South Georgia Tormenta FC

While Nick O’Callaghan is a product of Orlando City’s academy, he went to college before the club joined MLS. Initially joining future Orlando City academy coach Darren Powell at Elon University, he ended up at Florida International University. Since he left for Elon before the club started in MLS, the defender was required to enter the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. Similar to Patiño, the club selected their former youth player, using the fifth pick of the third round.

Last year, O’Callaghan spent the season at OCB. But he only played six games before a knee injury effectively ended his season. When the USL League One season ended, O’Callaghan exited the club like the other older players on the team. This off-season, the defender joined South Georgia Tormenta of USL League One. He’ll be looking to use the role with his new team to work his way back up the U.S. soccer league ladder.

Orlando City may not have a second team in USL in 2021 but that doesn’t mean the lower divisions won’t have players worth watching. Some of these players could even have a future with Orlando City if they continue to develop. You can catch all of these players as they play in the USL Championship and USL League One when the seasons begin later this month.