Before Orlando City Soccer Club became an MLS franchise, they were a dominating force in the USL. With the announcement of Orlando City B, the Lions plan to replicate their former USL success with their newly formed second team. Former Orlando City player Anthony Pulis will be the head coach of OCB, and will be assisted by another club legend, former captain Rob Valentino.
Having a USL team will give Orlando City a strategic advantage in terms of developing players. First team members from the current MLS squad such as Tommy Redding and Harrison Heath now have the ability to play more competitive minutes. “It allows players who do not get regular minutes get into games,” stated Orlando City’s general Manager, Paul McDonough. “It gives our players the opportunity to play against men and tougher competition.”
Having a USL side not only benefits younger players who need minutes to further develop their abilities, but with OCB set to train at Sylvan Lake Soccer Complex alongside the pro team, coaches will have the opportunity to watch the younger players develop first hand. “This will give us an opportunity for them to train with us, and be in their own group. If they don’t play with the first team then they play with the second team, which is how it should be,” asserted Lions Head Coach Adrian Heath.
MLS players such as Heath and Redding will certainly benefit from the addition of OCB, however it also gives fantastic opportunities for young talent in the Orlando City Youth Academy to work their way up to OCB, and with hard work and dedication, to the MLS squad.
Orlando City academy player Raul Aguilera Jr. is already taking strides in his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. Aguilera worked his way up from the youth academy and could potentially feature for OCB. “I feel like it is all coming together,” expressed Aguilera.
“OCB makes me feel like I can do this. It isn’t as hard as I thought. Making the jump from the youth academy to MLS is really hard. The opportunity to play in USL gives us a place to work on our skills. USL is no joke, it is a good level. Playing with older men and professionals is going to be really good for me and other teammates.”
The level of competition in USL is quite strong, and has proven in the past that it gives players the opportunity to develop into better soccer players. Orlando City defender, Rafael Ramos, is very thankful of the time he spent with Orlando City in the USL. “It helped me grow very much. It help me know the coaches, staff, and club which helped me learn a lot.”
Even though the main focus for OCB will be to develop younger players the team plans to keep the winning culture alive by having their own identity.
When originally in the USL, Orlando City won five trophies in their four seasons stint in the league. Led by greats like Valentino, Pulis and even current Orlando City players such as Luke Boden and Kevin Molino, the Lions made one thing very clear — they were there to win, and that’s what they did. The team brought a winning culture and mentality that is shared by every player to every fan in Central Florida. OCB plans to bring that same culture to Melbourne.
“We want to win games” said a confident Coach Pulis. “We will try to emulate what we had before. We had very successful teams and played an exciting brand of soccer. We will be looking forward to this upcoming season.”
Assistant Coach Rob Valentino could not agree more. “Winning games is very important to us,” he said. “We will try to build a winning culture here while developing players at the same time. There is a balance, however our objective is to win.”
Orlando City B will begin play in the spring of 2016. Season tickets are now on sale here.