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Orlando City EVP Luiz Muzzi: Club can’t miss out on future Homegrowns

Orlando City SC EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi answers questions during a roundtable discussion with reporters at Orlando City Stadium. (Jordan Culver-Pro Soccer USA)

New Orlando City SC executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi doesn’t want see academy products choosing to leave Central Florida. 

The Lions recently signed forward Benji Michel to a Homegrown deal, making him the club’s fifth Homegrown player. In an interview with Pro Soccer USA, Muzzi said he wants Orlando City to be known for Homegrown players. He expounded on that philosophy in a roundtable discussion with reporters at Orlando City Stadium. 

“I heard one or two guys from two or three years ago saying, ‘I don’t want to play for Orlando City,’ you know, after having been through the whole academy process and all that,” Muzzi said. 

“I go, that’s wrong. That cannot happen. That can’t happen. Unless you’re going to Europe and you have this great opportunity and all that. But, if you’re here, and you’re saying you don’t want to come back. You should want to come back. Why? Because we should be able to provide something good here and we should be able to provide a path for those guys. I don’t have this guy here for 10 years. It may happen. Five years? It may happen. But the goal should be we get this guy in, he contributes, he plays, but then he goes to the next step. And then we’ve got the next one coming in.”

Muzzi, who was hired from FC Dallas, said he wants Orlando City to start using younger players. This lines up with the recent relaunch of Orlando City B as a USL League One (formerly USL D3) side. Club executives, as well as OCB GM Mike Potempa, have repeatedly said they want OCB to be used to develop players. 

Muzzi said his focus has been on Orlando City and the MLS Player Combine and that he’s still learning the ins and outs of Orlando City’s development academy and OCB, both of which are based at Montverde Academy. He added “it would be nice” if OCB, the academy and Orlando City were all located in the same place, but that’s a challenge. 

OCB’s first two signings, which were announced in mid-November, were development academy products. Both were under 18 years old when they signed their deals. 

“I take lessons from FC Dallas, for sure, and from my previous academies, but every situation is different,” Muzzi said. 

The Lions own the No. 3, No. 27, No. 38, No. 59, No. 75, No. 94 and No. 96 and Muzzi said some of those picks could end up playing for OCB. 

“The point of OCB should be, everybody playing for OCB needs to have potential to play for the first team,” Muzzi said. “There’s no point in having a 31-year-old playing for OCB because we want to be champions of USL League One. I don’t care if we win the title. It’s great to win titles, that’s great. But at the end of the year, how many of those players are going to go to the first team? Is it three or is it nobody? 

“If we won the title and nobody went to the first team, that’s a failure. That’s how I see OCB. I still need to get to know more.”

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