Orlando City announced this afternoon the loan of Homegrown midfielder Wilfredo Rivera to Indy Eleven of the USL Championship for the remainder of the 2022 season. The Lions retained the right to recall Rivera at any time.
“Wilfredo continually looks to improve his game day in and day out, and we think this loan is just the next step in furthering his development,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “Wilfredo will be able to fight for increasingly competitive minutes over the course of this loan and we look forward to seeing how he progresses over this period.”
Rivera joined the Orlando City academy in 2018 from Jacksonville FC and initially played with the club’s U-16 side. The San Juan, Puerto Rico native then joined Orlando City B for the 2020 USL League One season. On March 22, 2021, Rivera became the ninth player to sign a Homegrown Player deal with the club and the youngest (17 years, five months, eight days) since Tommy Redding (17 years, one month, 15 days) signed with the club in 2014. The attacking midfielder signed a three-year contract with the club with club options for the 2024 and 2025 MLS seasons.
Rivera is one of six Homegrown Players on Orlando City’s 2022 roster, joining defenders Michael Halliday, Thomas Williams, and Alex Freeman, goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar, and forward Benji Michel.
Rivera has spent most of the 2022 season with OCB, having yet to make the bench for the first team. He missed four games earlier in the season as he was away on international duty with Puerto Rico, taking part in Concacaf Nations League.
The 18-year-old played in 15 games in 2020, starting each, and played 1,256 minutes. He recorded three goals and one assist. This season, Rivera has played in 10 games with nine starts, accumulating one goal and three assists. In his two seasons with the Young Lions, the teenager has made 25 appearances (24 starts) and played 1,945 minutes, scoring four goals and recording four assists.
At the international level, Rivera has represented Puerto Rico at multiple levels, scoring three goals.
What This Means for Orlando
Rivera has yet to make a first-team appearance, and it seems unlikely that he will do so this year after the team signed Niko Gioacchini. While Rivera could continue playing for OCB, that’s a third-division team and the midfielder has been one of the best players on the field in each of his appearances.
Moving to Indy Eleven, a USL Championship side, allows Rivera to play in the second division as he continues his development. Presumably, playing against better competition and older players will enhance the 18-year-old’s development as he continues to work his way toward a first-team spot.
As previously mentioned, Rivera was unlikely to make a first-team appearance this year so the move won’t affect Orlando City in the short term. However, if Rivera continues to improve playing against better competition, it could benefit the Lions in the future. OCB will miss one of its better play makers for the rest of the MLS NEXT Pro season.