For Lions coach James O’Connor, the offseason focus is on more than just the First Team.
Orlando City B, the Club’s USL League One affiliate, is set to begin play in 2019. OCB GM Mike Potempa is hard at work building the roster, and O’Connor is keeping a close eye on the Orlando City Development Academy prospects vying for spots.
“We had a couple of the youth players come and train with us,” O’Connor said Thursday at Orlando City Stadium. “There was one in particular I thought did very well. He was only 16. For us, we feel as if there are some good opportunities there with the players.
“That’s something that we want to be very intentional about, myself coming through an academy system. I want to hopefully give someone that opportunity.”
When he joined the Club at the end of June, O’Connor’s conversations with Potempa were mostly preliminary. But now that the channels of communication have been established, the talks are shifting more to “really firming up ideas on philosophy and making sure there’s a real alignment.”
O’Connor clarified that the idea isn’t for OCB to use the same tactics as the First Team -- “the formational aspect is a personal choice for the coach” -- but rather to develop players that can fit into a certain style of play.
“When we have the ball, we want good movement, rotational movement. We want people pulling into space, finding space,” O’Connor said. “And then when we’re defending we want to deny space as much as possible.
“From those pillars you want to create principles of play and make sure that it’s all aligned.”
O’Connor also said that assistant coach Sean McAuley has been to Montverde Academy, where the Orlando City DA is headquartered, to scout players. The coaching staff will also watch games and continually explore opportunities to involve stand-out DA and eventually OCB players with the First Team.
The overall vision for Orlando City B is more organized than it was in its previous iteration. Whereas in 2016 and 2017 OCB was focused on refining First Team depth players, OCB in 2019 and beyond will focus on developing Academy prospects for promotion, which O’Connor said is the main goal.
“I don’t think the results are overly important. I think the focus needs to be on trying to develop,” O’Connor said. “But I do believe that winning also helps with development. We want to becoming a winning Club. We want that mentality to be generated throughout our teams, starting with the First Team and going all the way down.”