Orlando City B is taking shape.
On Wednesday OCB signed 17-year-old midfielder Jordan Bender. This morning the Club signed 15-year-old forward Luc Granitur.
The two are milestone signings for a still nascent project in OCB. Bender is the first signing in the Club’s new era; Granitur is the youngest ever.
“When we talk about building a roster, we want a young, hungry player from the Academy to be involved in the professional team,” OCB GM Mike Potempa said.
OCB will begin play in USL League One in 2019.
Bender, from Lake Mary, Fla., is a versatile box-to-box midfielder, according to Potempa. He has a tireless workrate off the ball, but can also take on defenders 1-v-1 as a winger. Surely those are qualities he’s looking for as he tries to build OCB’s inaugural roster, but for Potempa, Bender brings so much more to the table than skill.
“He plays for the team. It’s very simple,” Potempa said. “He’s not an ego guy. He’s not an individual, he does whatever the team needs.”
Bender has played for the Orlando City Development Academy since he was 13. He’s been involved with the U.S. youth national team since February 2017, but Potempa has seen marked improvement in Bender since the OCDA relocated to Montverde Academy in January.
“His entire mindset has changed,” Potempa said. “When I first met him he had a professional mindset in terms of being driven to get towards his goals, but some of the things outside the field were missing. His structure now, his discipline, his understanding of how to act professionally, his understanding of accepting coaching decisions, his understanding of the game in total, his care for his body off the field, his communication skills have all improved. That’s all important if we’re talking about the responsibility of a young player in a professional environment. All that has improved in the last eight to nine months.”
On top of all that, “He’s Magna Cum Laude right now, meaning he’s got straight As, which is also very indicative of who he is as a person. And I believe in two year’s time, he should be considered for the First Team.”
As a 16-year-old, Bender scored six goals in 28 games for the U-19s. He has two goals in six games this season.
The excitement swirling Granitur is similar.
“His mentality and drive to be the best is probably in the top one percent of the entire Academy that we have here,” Potempa said of Granitur. “Right now we’ve moved him up to the U-19s, he’s our top goal-scorer with three goals in six games, and he’s only 15 years old.”
Granitur’s journey to OCB began with his time in the OCDA and continued with his decision to join the residency program at Montverde Academy. His work ethic earned him a spot in the U.S. U-16/17 training camp in June.
Potempa pointed out, however, that Granitur won’t be relied upon to score 10 or 15 in his first pro season. The objective is to put him in an environment where he can learn to be a professional soccer player. The fact that he’s still only 15 just adds to his potential.
“He is one, with his quality, that needs to be in this environment because if he’s already showing promise to be able to be a top goal-scorer playing three or four years ahead of himself in U-19s, he’s ready for the next level. It’s our job in terms of promoting players and preparing them for the First Team to continue to challenge those athletes and get them in the environments that make it challenging for them.”