Academy Update: In the Mix at IMG

Orlando City has been put through the wringer this week at IMG Academy in Bradenton, working through two or even three training sessions a day to prepare for its 2021 regular season, presented by Orlando Health.

And there, working right alongside stars like Nani, Chris Mueller and Mauricio Pereyra, are five young men who look to someday reach their heights.

Five Orlando City Academy players — Thomas Williams, Quembol Guadalupe, Moises Tablante, Wilfredo Rivera and Raul Aguilera Jr. — have joined Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s week-long boot camp. 

Their purpose? To see exactly what being a professional soccer player is like.

“This experience has been very eye-opening for me,” said Rivera after a grueling morning session. “The level here is just crazy compared to anything else, and everything just moves faster. You have to think faster...I’ve just been trying my best to keep up with these guys. It’s honestly been a very good experience for me.”

Pareja has developed a reputation for working well with young players. He helped build one of MLS’ top academies at FC Dallas alongside Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi and is on his way to doing the same in Orlando. 

So far, Pareja seems impressed with how his young charges have adapted.

“What they learn is the culture within the group,” said Pareja. “I know they see these professional players waking up early in the morning and going to the pitch, doing their best, not just in the competitions during the training but their effort, the way they can get their body ready for such a big challenge".

“It’s a great experience for them to see it, especially because they are very young. Thomas Williams for example, Wilfredo, Tablante, Raul, Quembol, a kid who played in our Under-17s that is not even turning 17 yet. But he’s competing every day with Nani and with Mauricio. So I know that collection of experiences will mature those boys and make them feel the game differently when they come out of this camp.”

Youngsters like Daryl Dike, Andres Perea and Benji Michel have all taken big leaps under Pareja – Dike is tearing up the English Championship on loan with Barnsley, while Perea and Michel were both named to the final 20-man roster for U.S. Men’s National Team Olympic qualifying.

Will one of these five be next? Time will tell, but they’re in a perfect place to start.