There just wasn’t enough time.
Days heading into Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium, Orlando City B knew it wasn’t going to have a strong enough roster to compete with.
OCB head coach Anthony Pulis wasn’t ruling that as an excuse to Saturday’s loss, but rather an opportunity to perfect a never-stopping revolving door that’s destined to succeed on both sides of the spectrum.
“It’s not easy, it is what it is, this is the dynamic of this group,” said Pulis moments after the team’s 1-0 loss to the Rowdies. “I mean, yes we have a group of players working with us for five and a half weeks, then you get a substantial amount [of players] two or three days before the season is not ideal.
“But it is what it is, you have to move on with it, we still prepared them well, in my opinion, so we’ll dust ourselves down and get ready for a big game Thursday night.”
Orlando City announced on Friday it was loaning nine players to Orlando City B. Of those nine, only eight started for the USL Lions. The time to practice as a group, however, was short, only two or three days, according to Pulis.
The first-team players that started were goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., defenders Kevin Alston, PC Giro, Conor Donovan and Tommy Redding. Midfielders Pierre Da Silva, Richie Laryea and Danny Deakin also suited up for OCB. Forward Hadji Barry did not travel with OCB.
It’s not impossible for an MLS-owned USL team to tap the strings of success in this league. For example, the New York Red Bulls II, owned by none other by MLS side New York Red Bulls, won the USL Cup this past season.
Another example of MLS-owned teams having success in the USL is the LA Galaxy II. Since joining the league in 2014, Los Dos have never missed the playoffs and finished as runner-up in the USL final in 2015.
There is no secret for OCB to attaining that similar success, but having the right approach is an important factor, said Pulis.
“I think it’s just making sure the players that have come down have got a good mentality and approach it the right way and use it as a positive,” said Pulis. “For them to gain minutes, and for them to become leaders for the younger guys on the OCB roster.”
While the main focus for OCB is getting first-team players some playing time, it’s also a luxury to have them on the field while at the same time having faith in the core OCB players, said goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr.
Despite the short amount of time the MLS players spent training with their OCB counterparts, that didn’t affect how the team performed against the Rowdies.
“I would consider that an excuse at this point,” said Edwards. “I think that’s something that’s going to happen throughout the year, and I think it’s something we need to adjust to… just kind of goes with the nature of the system.”
Pulis said a few days heading into Saturday’s matchup the Rowdies were arguably the best team on paper in the league. The Rowdies proved him right.
But there are 31 games left to the season. 31 games to build on something, defender Tommy Redding thinks so.
“We have to understand it’s the first game of the season… it’s a long season, we just need to go back and look at the things we did wrong, fix them and try to move forward,” said Redding.
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(Photo courtesy of Mark Thor / Orlando City)