The Orlando City Pro Academy U-17/18s are the No. 1 team in the country.
A five-goal outburst lifted City to a 5-3 win over Weston FC Saturday in Sanford. The U-17/18s have now won five straight and have a three-point lead over New York Red Bulls for first place in the country. They also have a six-point lead over Atlanta United FC for the top spot in the Southeast Division.
The Young Lions struck early and often against Weston, beginning with Joe Gallardo’s tally in the 14th minute. Three minutes later, Isaque Cuoto finished with a good strike and Gallardo scored again in the 43rd to make it 3-0 going into halftime.
Weston fought back to make it 3-2 in the second half but in the 72nd minute, David Loera was tripped up in the box and drew a penalty kick that Gallardo coolly finished for his hat trick. One minute later, Raul Aguilera made it 5-2.
“Their quality really showed on the final foot this weekend,” Academy Director and U-17/18s head coach David Longwell said. “They improved their finishing significantly from last weekend. Really took advantage of their chances.
“To score five against Weston is a great achievement. They’re a really strong competitor and it was a tough game.”
That City scored five against one of the better defensive teams in the Southeast is a testament to the attractive, attacking-minded Club philosophy instilled from the youngest age groups through to the First Team.
The U-17/18s have scored 39 goals scored in 12 games this season – the most in the country. Eight players have at least two goals this season and five have scored four or more.
“It shows that they’re really taking on what we’re teaching them,” Longwell said. “I’m really proud of the work the boys have put in.”
A stiff challenge awaits at the 2016 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., from Dec. 1-4. City will face meet Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City and Lonestar SC Academy.
“They’ll be a good benchmark for us, playing against other of the top teams in the country,” Longwell said of the coming challenges. “But we’re the top team in the country, so we’ll be a good benchmark for them, too.”