Orlando City announced today that the club has signed Orlando City Academy midfielder Raul Aguilera to a one-year contract with club options for the 2022, 2023 and 2024 seasons. Aguilera becomes the Lions’ 10th Homegrown Player ever and the second to be inked to a deal this year, joining Wilfredo Rivera, who signed his deal on March 22.
“Raul is a great young player that has been with the club from the very beginning,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He learned a lot from his time with a top-flight program at the collegiate level and brought that knowledge to our system and continued to work hard. Raul is a player that is incredibly dedicated to this club, has shown us his love for this city and proven that he is truly a Lion through and through.”
The 21-year-old Sanford entered Orlando City’s academy in 2013, before heading to the University of North Carolina to play collegiate soccer from 2017 to 2019. While with the Tarheels, Aguilera appeared in 44 matches (30 starts), scoring two goals and assisting on six others. He scored his first collegiate goal against Virginia Tech during his freshman season. His second goal came against ACC champion Virginia (current teammate Daryl Dike’s team) in 2019 — his third year in the Tarheels’ program. Between college seasons, he made five appearances with SIMA Aguilas of the USL Premier Development League in 2018.
Last season, Aguilera played with Orlando City B in USL League One, playing in eight league games (seven starts). He scored one goal with the Young Lions in 2020. Aguilera did enough to get the attention of Orlando City’s coaching staff and he worked with the first team since it opened camp at the IMG Academy in Bradenton to start the 2021 preseason.
On the international stage, Aguilera has made appearances with the U-15, U-16, and U-18 U.S. national teams.
With Aguilera’s addition, the Lions now have seven Homegrown Players on the current roster: Aguilera, Rivera, defender Michael Halliday, goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar, midfielders Jordan Bender and David Loera, and forward Benji Michel.
What It Means for Orlando City
This signing feels like it’s been a long time coming. Aguilera has long been considered one of the academy’s bright prospects and getting signed to a program like UNC illustrates how he’s been viewed in the eyes of soccer scouts. Aguilera was rated as the No. 13 player in the 2017 class by O When the Yanks, No. 19 by College Soccer News, and No. 42 by TopDrawerSoccer.
Aguilera has a lot of potential for development and with his signing the Lions continue to show their commitment to their academy players. The Sanford native will learn from veteran players like Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Junior Urso, Uri Rosell, and Alexandre Pato under the watchful eye of Oscar Pareja — a coach well known for developing young players. This is a great situation for Aguilera and a positive step for Orlando City.
As with Rivera, Aguilera won’t be expected to log a lot of minutes with the MLS side in 2021, but if he can make his league debut and perhaps get some minutes in the U.S. Open Cup (if Orlando qualifies), it would be considered a successful first season with the first team.