SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi was serious when he said he wanted to make sure the club didn’t miss out on future Homegrown prospects.
Four potential Homegrown players – all personally called by Muzzi — were brought in for Tuesday’s training session. The four, all of whom are currently in college, are midfielder AJ Seals (North Carolina State), defender Jason Nduese-Udom (Mercer University), defender Jonathan Rosales (USF) and defender Jack McCloskey (UCF).
“All of these guys are always welcome to come back and train with us during the summer,” Muzzi told Pro Soccer USA. “They should feel like this is their home. They can come back at any time. Even if they’re not going to be pro players, we’ll welcome them as part of their growth, as part of life. They need to feel that.”
Muzzi, who was present for Tuesday’s training session alongside Orlando City director of scouting Ricardo Moreira, said the decision to bring in the players was collaborative between him and the coaching staff.
He added, “The next guy’s going to come and the next guy’s going to want to play for Orlando and start building that. I’m glad that these guys are here and there’s going to be more. There’s going to be more during the summer.”
Seals missed some time due to injury during his first season with NC State, but he appeared in 11 matches (nine starts) for the Wolfpack. Udom made seven starts for the Bears in 2018 and scored a goal. McCloskey appeared in four matches (one start) for UCF last season. Rosales started 16 of USF’s 17 matches last season – his junior year with the Bulls – and picked up three assists.
University of Kentucky goalkeeper Enrique Facusse also is training with Orlando City’s goalkeepers, though he’s not a potential homegrown player for the club. He did attend Montverde Academy. He appeared in 22 games as a sophomore for Kentucky last season and was tied for first in the nation with 14 shutouts.
In a previous interview with Pro Soccer USA, Muzzi said he wants Orlando City to be known for Homegrowns. The club signed forward Benji Michel to a Homegrown deal during the 2019 offseason, and Michel has since made an appearance for the club.
Muzzi also wanted No. 3 overall draft pick Santiago Patiño as a Homegrown player, but the league shot that down. The club ended up getting Patiño anyway in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, and coach James O’Connor said taking Patiño represented a commitment to players who have come through Orlando City’s development academy system.
Salaries of Homegrown players in MLS salaries don’t count against the cap and a club receives 100 percent of the fees associated with the transfer or loan of a Homegrown player.
Regarding Homegrown players, the league’s roster rules say, “A club may sign a player to a contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of a club’s youth academy for at least one year and has met the necessary training and retention requirements.”