Since Orlando City created their USL side last season, OCB has been a helpful tool for MLS players recovering from injury. It serves as a way to ease players back into competition before appearing in an MLS match, and also allows Orlando City to draw from younger talent in their own organization.
According to OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis, all the MLS players who have come through OCB have come with a professional mentality. They understand the importance of being able to play in a match, even if they aren’t playing with the first team. That mentality has gone a long way in developing OCB as a successful USL side.
“I feel like we’re a lot further ahead than we were last year, individual talent wise and also as a team,” Pulis said. “We know that the team changes week-to-week, but I think that the players coming across from the MLS group have understood the importance of coming across and getting minutes, whereas last year I feel like it took a lot longer for them to really understand the importance of them coming and getting minutes in USL. So, their mentality and their approach to coming and playing for OCB has been fantastic and long may that continue.”
“I would say Earl [Edwards] has really kind of come to the for,” Pulis said. “He’s really impressed me from that standpoint.”
Edwards has earned a lot of playing time with OCB this season, essentially taking on the role of their starting goalkeeper. His personality and leadership skills in training and on the pitch are blossoming, and Pulis said that Edwards knows the significance of the opportunities he has in USL.
“I had a chat with him last week and told him how pleased we’ve been with him not just on the field, but the way he has been around the group. Because he has now had that two years of being an MLS backup, he’s been around the environment and I think he’s now really relishing that role of being our starting goalkeeper and being able to get minutes and play week in and week out and really help the younger guys out,” Pulis said. “So, we’ve been really pleased with him. And the challenge with him now is to continue that, and I said to him, the last three games have been good because he hasn’t had as much work to do as probably what he had to do in the first five. But what’s he done, he’s done it well.”
Edwards is under an MLS contract, but essentially serves as the third string behind Joe Bendik and Josh Saunders. He’s spending much more time with Orlando City B this season, and he’s enjoying it. He’s adopted the USL side as his team, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that he and the team get results.
“He’s approached this in a really professional manner and understands how important this is, that he’s getting minutes week in and week out. And he knows, barring an injury or two, that he’s going to be playing for us every week,” Pulis said. “He’s now approaching this as his team, and that’s fantastic.”