To say Orlando City B General Manager Mike Potempa has hit the ground running would be an understatement.
Potempa and OCB coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita are in the process of building what Potempa – and Orlando City’s front office – believes will be the perfect bridge between Orlando City SC’s development academy and the first team.
That process included a recent 10-day trip to Brazil to scout players. De Argila and Potempa traveled side-by-side during the trip, with De Argila posting pictures on Twitter every nearly every step of the way.
“We visited Atlético Mineiro, which is in Belo Horizonte, which is a little bit north of São Paolo and then we went to Atlético Paranaense, which Orlando City has a direct partnership with,” Potempa told Pro Soccer USA.
Potempa added there were multiple purposes for the trip. He previously told Pro Soccer USA that OCB will not be a place to park injured first team players while they recover. Instead, the USL League One – formerly USL D3 – side will be about making sure the first team has young, talented players to choose from.
“First of all, scouting players,” he said. “In Brazil, of course, there is so much talent, they have several young players who are very high-level that they’re one of maybe four or five in the same position and they don’t get to play.”
Potempa said he’s looking to have the team’s roster built by the end of the year. He plans to announce OCB’s first signings soon and confirmed the team’s first two signings will be from Orlando City’s development academy.
Ideally, Orlando City B’s roster will be fully signed by Dec. 31, perhaps earlier, Potempa said.
“When we continue to exam the group, we are challenging them at a very high level,” Potempa said about Orlando City’s academy, which is housed at Montverde Academy. “Sometimes, when you put forth such a challenge before them tactically and the way we want to play, it takes time.
“Some kids, when we started working with them, we think, ‘Maybe he could be something for OCB,’ and then there’s some circumstances for whatever reason and he kind of takes a dip. And then some that you weren’t really sure really rise. That’s why you have to continue to monitor. Continue to watch every single training session and talk with the players because they change. At this age, the change very quickly.
“We’ve had our eye on a few [development academy players] that I think have remained constant that we figure yes, we would like to add them. These two particular players have been very consistent across the board. Very high-level players that I think should be considered for the first team within one or two years, in my opinion.”
Potempa said he and De Argila – a man he’s in constant communication with – are figuring out the jigsaw puzzle that is constructing a USL League One roster. They’ll have seven international spaces to work with, and they’re looking for the perfect mix of youth and experience, though even the team’s “veteran” players will be under 24 years old.
He said he wants to make sure the international players are playing significantly and can help the team win games.
“You may have your eye on a few international players that, maybe, they don’t work out for whatever reason,” Potempa said. “They change their minds, plans change, you talk to people who are involved and maybe it’s not the route they want to go. Maybe they say yes and then say no. Maybe they so no and then change to yes.
“Of course, the objective will always stay the same: Young players that need to play between the ages of 16 and 24. Internationally, they need to be high, high-level players because you have seven spaces and you can’t get those wrong. We really have to be careful on our choices for the international spots.”
The plan for the roster is already in place. Positions – with their importance to the team’s style of play and what age group works at that spot – are mapped out, Potempa said.
Put simply, OCB is looking for the best players.
“For example, your central defenders, in our opinion, need to be a little on the older side of 22, 23, because central defenders are very important to the success of a team. The way we play, our defensive midfield player needs to be a very technical player. A certain player with experience that needs to understand he’s the heartbeat of our team. You need a No. 10 who has some experience threatening the goal. A No. 9 that can finish. The wingers are good one-versus-one. A goalkeeper, of course, with experience.
“Some of the others you can afford to play younger players, but you need your main positions, certain positions at a certain age.”