If a challenging year like 2020 resulted in Orlando City’s Academy having its most successful season and clinching its first postseason spot in six years, imagine what the future holds.
“Dedication and hard work”, is the formula for the young talent that is being polished at the Orlando City Academy by Marcelo Neveleff and his staff. A year that forced the team to constantly adapt was a tremendous growth opportunity for the youngsters, who are working to move to the locker room right next door - the First Team dressing room.
“When the First Team came over, we were already training here. Sharing the building, being next to their locker room, the integration was unbelievable”, said Neveleff of the academy’s residence at the Orlando City SC Training Grounds.
“You can see our Academy players walking by and watching Nani and Chris Mueller practicing. Our young players relate to their younger players mostly and they see that and they feel ‘Ok, I am this close”, but realizing that the step to be on the First Team is a big step to take. It was great because that situation reminded the players every day that they have to keep working hard to make it.”
And they are making it.
This past season two Academy products had their professional debut with the First Team. Midfielder David Loera made his debut on Oct. 3 against the New York Red Bulls and midfielder Jordan Bender, the first Orlando player to follow the development pipeline from Academy to First Team, recorded his debut on Oct.14 against New York City FC.
The relationship of trust between Neveleff and Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja is one of the key elements as to why the number of Homegrowns who will debut in purple will only increase.
“The relationship with Oscar is very honest and open. He tells me what he thinks and I tell him what I think. We talk about the players and the methodology. He is always very supportive of the program, he wants to know what we need to do or work for to be one of the best academies in the country,” Neveleff said.
“Personally I expect the same, I expect for him to be demanding about the quality of the players, the people that we try to develop. And I expect to keep going and knocking on his door to keep presenting players.”
For more information on the Orlando City Academy, click here.