Orlando City B general manager Mike Potempa believes Orlando City SC’s third-division side is on the road to success.
Of course, for Potempa, success for OCB is about more than wins and losses. OCB was relaunched as a USL League One side (formerly USL D3) with a focus on player development after a yearlong hiatus. The team will open its inaugural USL League One season by hosting FC Tucson at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Montverde Academy.
“I think what fans will be able to see – to me, in my mind, the game can be played in two ways: you can play to win, or you can play not to lose,” Potempa said. “I think you’ll see a group of players that have trained and worked very hard and are excited. We’re going to play to win.”
OCB unveiled its young roster in February. There isn’t a player who is older than 23 on the roster, and the average age of the roster is 19 and 1/2 years old. Six of the team’s players were signed from Orlando City’s development academy.
“I think we have extreme talent,” Potempa said. “With an average age of 19 and a 1/2, I really believe that this group of players, in time, have the ability to play in MLS or abroad. I do believe in that. I’m very excited for the kids and I’m excited for the project. Our mission really is to prove that you can compete, develop and win with young players. This is the mission, and I think we’re well on the way.”
Potempa said the full roster won’t be available for Saturday’s game due to visa issues for some of the international players.
“We’re still developing our culture right now,” Potempa said. “Some of the players are still not here yet due to visa issues and things. One of the guys that, maybe, would be a captain is not able to play [Saturday] for visa issues. At this point, the captain is somebody who we believe on the field, on the day, is ready to lead the group.”
Bringing the roster together was about finding talent – both from Orlando City’s development academy and abroad – that could eventually play for Orlando City’s first team, Potempa said.
“It was a very interesting process,” he said. “In my mind, I’ve been working at this for about eight months, to put the roster together.”
Some of Orlando City B’s players have already seen first-team action, albeit in during a preseason friendly. A group of players were a part of Orlando City’s preseason invitational.
“I think that’s the epitome of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Potempa said. “When I was watching that particular game, being able to see seven guys there that come from this academy all at once in an MLS environment in the stadium – this is the goal of what we’re trying to accomplish with OCB.
“The fact that [Orlando City coach] James [O’Connor] allowed that to happen and the players performed only provided more motivation for the coaches and the other players in the academy to see this is real. The pathway to the first team, now, is real at Orlando City. I think that motivates everyone.”
Orlando City B’s first four matches are at home. Potempa said the stadium at Montverde Academy can seat 1,500 at capacity, but more renovations are incoming.
“The field, actual field renovations, have been completed,” he said. “But we’re still in the works of making sure everything is sufficient as it should be. That’ll be another week or two away. Some additional bleachers and things of that nature are being added, but not the way we envisioned the perfect renovation to be.”
All USL League One matches will be streamed nationally on ESPN+. League One has 10 teams.
“That was one of my big questions to the USL, when they were talking about League One, was what type of media exposure you would have. Being on ESPN+ is basically the same type of exposure you’d get on many colleges, universities and professional leagues around the world.
“The fact USL League One is on ESPN and has a national audience, and the fact that, internationally, it’s on YouTube, it really projects the capability of exposure for USL League One, exposure for OCB and, also, exposure for our unique project and what we’re trying to accomplish.”