Orlando City SC announced today that midfielder and Homegrown Player Jordan Bender has been loaned to the Charlotte Independence of the USL Championship for the 2021 season. The club retains the right to recall Bender as part of the loan agreement.
“Jordan is a young player that has shown us a lot of potential and that we can see a bright future for in our club,” said Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi in a club press release. “We’re sending him to a club and a coaching staff that we know well, one that is close to us and a place where he’ll get valuable game minutes to further his development. This is a situation that works out well for everyone involved and we’ll be eagerly watching Jordan’s progress over this period.”
Bender, 19, became the seventh player signed as an Orlando City Homegrown Player on Dec. 12, 2019. He is the first Homegrown Player to start in the Orlando City Development Academy, play for Orlando City B, earn an MLS contract with the club, and appear in a game. (Although Pierre da Silva also previously accomplished those feats, he was not eligible to become a Homegrown Player.) Bender made his MLS debut Oct. 14, 2020 against New York City FC and got his first MLS start Nov. 8 against Nashville SC. The Lake Mary native has played 46 minutes with the first team so far in his career with no goals or assists and one shot attempt.
On the international scene, Bender attended the 2020 U.S. U-20 National Team January Camp. He has been called into camp for the United States at the U-16 level and made his youth international debut with the U.S. in a friendly against Japan on April 13, 2017.
What It Means for Orlando City
The Lions have a fairly crowded midfield at the moment, so this move is a good one to get Bender some experience and to get him match fitness. It would not be surprising to see a few other players join him on loan soon if Orlando City can find them a good situation.
Bender has yet to be able to break into the first team for regular minutes and his only professional experience to date has been 19 games with OCB at the USL League One level (U.S. third tier) in 2019 and 2020. Hopefully he can settle in at Charlotte, gain some experience, and perhaps score his first professional goal. The objective will be to get a more seasoned Bender back at the end of the loan. The Lions maintain roster flexibility with the right to recall the young midfielder if he’s needed.
TL;DR — This is a good situation for everyone involved.