Two years, nine months and seven days after being drafted by Orlando City in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Earl Edwards Jr. finally got his first MLS start. The third year goalkeeper out of UCLA has been biding his time over the last few seasons and got a much deserved opportunity last Sunday. While the game didn’t go exactly as planned for a debut, Edwards was still glad he was able to ultimately get the chance he has been waiting for.
“Obviously excited to get my debut,” Edwards said after the match. “Been waiting a while to get that under my belt. Obviously we didn’t close the season out the way we wanted to. I hope to build on any other progress that I've had throughout the season, put in work in the offseason and come back stronger next year.”
The journey for Edwards to this point has been one of patience. In 2015, he was backup to both Donovan Ricketts and Tally Hall. He was able to start in a U.S. Open Cup match, where he endeared himself to fans by coming up with big saves throughout and in the penalty shootout, which the Lions eventually won. 2016 saw him behind starter Joe Bendik, who did not miss a game all year.
This past season, Edwards was able to get almost a full season’s run in USL with Orlando City B, where he thrived. Through 23 games played and 2070 minutes logged, the keeper kept nine clean sheets through the season, which was good for fourth in the USL regular season. His 80 saves on the season also put him in the top 10 of USL keepers. He was an integral piece of OCB’s 12-game unbeaten run, which earned him Player of the Month back in August.
His play this past season in USL certainly earned him a chance with the MLS side, as did it for his teammates Richie Laryea and Seb Hines.
“I think a lot of us had a good year at OCB to be brought back into the MLS team and get some minutes,” Edwards said, “I think was a good reward for all of us.”
Despite his debut not going the way he wanted, Edwards can hold his head up high after the season he had with OCB, knowing that there is a very bright future ahead of him at the professional level.