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Orlando City's First Academy Season off to Flying Start

U-15/16 Team Posts Unbeaten Record Through October

U-15/16 team Posts Unbeaten Record Through October

The makeup of Orlando City’s youth system has included significant changes and additions over the past year. Orlando City partnered with top clubs in central Florida in preparation for its first Development Academy season, and the results are showing on the field.

Orlando City’s Under-15/16 team is off to a 4-0-0 start through October thanks to a talented pool of players who have made the Academy move a smooth one.

“We weren’t totally aware of the talent pool in our area,” Orlando City U-15/16 head coach Sean Murphy said. “Our tryouts, we had over 130 players for each age group. The U-15/16s have done really well. They’re a great group and they’ve stepped up to the plate and set the bar high for themselves. Now from my perspective, I have to drive them on, guide them and maintain that high standard.”

The U-15/16 team enters an important barometer game against Georgia United this Sunday. Both teams are unbeaten in the Southeast Division.

“I think this game is a big test for us, but every team is a challenge,” Murphy said. “The whole premise of the Academy has been spot-on to challenge the players to play to their potential on a consistent basis.”

The one premise that Murphy and Orlando City have embraced with ease is the Development Academy’s 10-month season, which emphasizes more training, fewer games, but more important matches.

“We train four nights a week and they’re intense,” Murphy said. “When you have the best players training under one team, they are pushed pretty hard to play to their potential. The challenges are higher. Before the Academy, the lads were used to being the best players on their club teams with one high-level game every few months. In the Academy, all four of our games have been a really high level of play. They’ve made adjustments, both psychologically and physically, and we work every day to push them harder and demand more in training. It’s been excellent.”

Murphy and U-17/18 head coach Nate Omodt come from the Florida Rush, which partnered with Orlando City over the summer to field the U-15/16 and U-17/18 Development Academy teams. Murphy’s coaching background has also included an assistant role with Clemson and head coaching duties at Stetson University.

“I’ve come from college teams where you play 20 games in three months, but here you are able to address more with the players and they are able to progress,” Murphy said. “The 10-month season creates a more thorough education.”

The 2012 Winter Showcase and Nike International Friendlies will kick off in less than a month in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., and Murphy is looking forward to the short trek with Orlando City’s players.

“As a college coach, I used to recruit there and the fields are usually perfect with 70-degree weather,” Murphy said. “I’m looking forward to the possibility of playing some teams from the other Academy divisions and some MLS-affiliated teams.”

Murphy pointed to a bunch of his players who have done an admirable job through the early going, including goal scoring leaders Dennis Zabata and Richard Prestridge (five goals apiece), forward Gorka Apperibay, midfielder John Nartowicz and defenders Cameron Hardington, Michael Melvin, Rohan Roberts and Austin Sandel among others.

“The boys have really received the whole Academy philosophy and have trained really hard,” Murphy said. “From the technical understanding to the psychological aspects, they have been enthusiastic about the whole process.”