As has been said many times since Orlando City has made the move to MLS, the youth movement for this team is one that is the most crucial. With half of the current roster under 20 years old, we decided to take a look into who will be effective going into next year and who might make the move over to Louisville.
Starting off the breakdown, we have the first youngster signed by Orlando City last year, Tyler Turner. Turner had a fairly productive season in USL Pro, starting the beginning of the season for the Lions due to right back Bryan Burke’s leg injury. In 24 games played, Turner logged 1,875 minutes, scoring once and assisting on two goals.
While not statistically impressive, Turner proved to be a very capable asset for Adrian Heath. Although his performance started to waver toward the end of the season, partly due to injury, coach Heath has the upmost faith in Turner going forward. Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio, coach Heath remarked,
“We’ll see who we bring and take it from there, but he put himself in good position with his play at the back end.”
I could see Turner coming off the bench for the Lions come March, but at this point in his young career, I don’t see him starting.
Next up, we have Orlando City’s first Home Grown player, Tommy Redding. Only 17 when the Lions announced him as their first homegrown player, Redding stepped up in a big way during the USL Pro season. Out of all the young players that City fielded last year, Redding was probably the most impressive in many fans’ eyes. In the 15 games he played, the center back held down the back line, along with veteran Brad Rusin, while Rob Valentino was out with injury. Many feel that Redding is ready to play on day one, but Heath may take his time with his development. I could see Redding making an occasional start, but mainly he will be reserved to a bench role.
The Portuguese international Estrela is someone, along with his national team teammate Rafael Ramos, who joined the Lions late in the season. Appearing in only eight games, Estrela showed composure and strength in the midfield and was fairly impressive to watch. Heath even compared him to a young Michael Essian in terms of his play style. He could be one of the players who cracks the starting lineup come March, but this is dependent on what happens in the coming months with City’s roster building efforts.
Ramos, the other Portuguese international, is one of the more intriguing players out of this young bunch. Playing three games at right back for the Lions last year, Ramos is actually listed as a forward on Orlando City’s website for MLS. Now this could easily be a typo, however it is quite plausible this is real. Ramos is a pacey player who has great technical ability with the ball. Every time he got the ball on the wing, he would make something happen, whether it was for himself or for his teammates. If the forward move is true, I could definitely see Ramos move into a starting role, or be the super sub off the bench.
Finally, we have Harrison Heath, a.k.a “baby Heath.” Son of the coach, Harrison officially signed with the team toward the end of the season, albeit after training with them for most of the year, and even playing in all of the friendly games as the “Blond Trialist.” In most people’s eyes Harrison Heath is not quite ready for MLS, but does show a lot of promise and ability.
His play in the midfield was not all that spectacular, but he held is own and proved that he could be a contributor with Orlando going forward. At this point in his career, however, I see him making the move over to Louisville for the year, in order to get him more experience against professional players. He will be an asset for the Lions, but only in about two or three years.
While there is much we can speculate about who will end up where, there is one thing that can be mutually agreed upon: the future is looking bright for Orlando