Part 8 of our 13 part USL Eastern Conference Preview series. Part I: Bethlehem Steel; Part 2: Charleston Battery; Part 3: Charlotte Independence; Part 4: FC Cincinnati; Part 5: FC Montreal; Part 6: Harrisburg City Islanders; Part 7: New York Red Bulls II
With this coming season being Orlando City B’s first in the USL, there isn’t a lot to go on, as far as a preview is concerned, but bear with me on this one, and I’ll see what I can dig up.
Orlando City B is a product of the MLS’s Orlando City parting ways with LCFC last year. When the split was announced, it was also made known that Orlando City would be adding another developmental team that was more local.
Orlando City B will play their home games in Melbourne, Florida, at the Titan Sports Complex on the campus of Eastern Florida State College. Which, by the way, is over an hour away from Orlando.
Orlando City pulled from their own cupboard to find a coach, hiring former Orlando City USL player Anthony Pulis to lead the team. Pulis played for Orlando City’s previous USL iteration from 2011-2014. Perhaps more significant, though, is his heritage. He is the son of Tony Pulis, currently the manager for West Bromwich Albion F.C. in the English Premier League. The elder Pulis has had a measure of success with his current team, beating Chelsea and Manchester United last season and leading his team to a 13th-place finish. So his son has the pedigree to be a successful coach. We’ll see how he lives up to it.
Because Orlando City B is a development team, most of their players are generally unproven talents that the MLS club feels could become solid players in the future. But, of course, not all of them fall into that category. Two recent signings stand out:
The team recently signed defender and USL veteran Andrew Ribeiro from the Charlotte Independence, as well as Scottish goalkeeper Mark Ridgers from Scottish team St. Mirren. While Ribeiro has several years of USL experience, Ridgers has been playing professional soccer since he was 15, 10 years ago. He has made 96 club appearances and has played several times with the U-19 and U-21 Scottish international teams.
I mean, there are probably technically some fans. But no one, not even the most hardcore of American soccer fans, is going to drive over an hour to see a developmental team when they have an MLS team with the same name in their back yard. My guess is their crowds will mostly consist of drunk college students who wander into the game, not realizing there’s a professional sporting event taking place.
The truth is, there’s just not much to go on here. Generally, though, I’d say not to bet on the team full of unproven talent with a first-year coach. I’d double down on that prediction when you throw in Orlando City SC (the MLS one) having the ability to just take the best player on the team when they feel like it. I’d say OCB will find themselves near the bottom of the conference in their first season.