When the Orlando City Development Academy made the move the Monteverde Academy this offseason, change was rapid. New players, coaches, and styles of play had to be integrated on a massive scale. By the looks of it, that hasn’t hindered their early season performance.
The Orlando City U-18/19’s have wrapped up the 2018 portion of their schedule and sit in first place of the Southeast Division.
Orlando City Academy Director Mike Potempa was aware of the difficulties of operating in such a tight timeframe, but has begun to see the benefits of their hard work.
“The first few months are always difficult any time you attempt to implement a methodology based on development – especially when immediate results can suffer,” said Potempa, who also coaches the U18-19’s. “However, I believe now that we are starting to see the fruits of our labor and we expect to see a continuation of our evolution in the second half of the season in 2019 across all age groups.”
The U-18/19’s haven’t just been carried by one player. The team has featured 10 different goals scorers in just 12 games played this season. For Potempa, this speaks to the academy’s methodology.
“Our methodology and approach to the game promotes attacking football. In other words, we want to win each game as opposed to hoping not to lose. Therefore, we prepare our team each week according to our identity and apply our identity in each match. One of the biggest differences in our U-19s this season is the depth we have in each position and the competition for playing time in training. I would say we have two high-level talents in each position so training is extremely intense and a starting spot on the weekend is never promised or guaranteed. I believe that these conditions have brought success thus far in the season and will continue to help us evolve and improve as we head into the spring.”
A major motivating factor for the Academy’s most promising talent is the resurgence of Orlando City B and the team’s focus on developing young talent. With Mike Potempa also serving as OCB’s General Manager, players are keen to make an impression with every opportunity.
“As the season progresses, the U-19s continue to evolve and are really starting to comprehend our identity and style of play,” said Potempa. “It’s been an extremely fruitful experience thus far as we now have many talents who are not only performing well for our club each weekend, but are also making a serious case for themselves to be considered for OCB in our inaugural season next March in USL League One.”
Two players from the U-18/19’s have already signed professional contracts with OCB. Jordan Bender and Luc Granitur both inked their deals in November. Bender, 17, has tallied four goals in 12 games this season and is a rising U.S. International. Granitur, 15, is the youngest contributor to the U-18/19’s. He scored 33 goals in 32 games with the U-15’s last year and has found the back of the net five times this season.
Potempa has a few other standouts on his radar as well.
“Others who have had a big impact are Ates Diouf, who is one of our top central midfield players, Lucca Dourado, who is a powerful and dangerous winger, and Cassio Silva Miranda Santos, who is an athletic and high level attacking left back.”
Heading into the second half of their season, Potempa believes his team is just beginning to reach their potential.
“It is our duty as a staff that we continue to work with the players and improve the team each day. I believe that we are just scratching the surface of what the group is capable of and now that we have had 4 months to adapt and play consistent matches, I envision this team to be even stronger in the second half of the season. It is important that our group stays humble, works hard, and has the desire to always improve. We can never be satisfied at any moment. These values will always remain part of our identity as it promotes growth not only as an athlete, but a person, and as a professional, which is our ultimate goal for the development academy program. We are pleased with what we have seen so far, but we will never be satisfied until we are champions.”
The U-18/19’s will continue play when they take on IMG Academy on January 26th.