A pair of former Orlando City Homegrown players have found new homes in the lower ranks, with midfielders Raul Aguilera Jr. and David Loera signing free agent deals with Indy Eleven and San Antonio FC, respectively.
Neither player had their option picked up by Orlando City for 2022, and neither made an impact with the Lions. Loera signed a homegrown contract late in 2019 after three college seasons at North Carolina State University, but he only played three MLS games for Orlando, logging only 35 MLS minutes. He went on loan in 2021 with Phoenix Rising FC, and while he didn’t produce any goals or assists, he did finally find minutes, playing 420 of them across 11 games. At 23, it’s tough to expect he’ll develop into a good MLS player, but hopefully he’ll find his level in USL.
Raul Aguilera faced a similar fate in his brief career with the Orlando City first team. He’s been in the academy forever, joining back in 2013(!) and inked a first-team contract less than 12 months ago. He played eight times for Orlando City B in 2020 and made three brief appearances for the first team in 2021, logging 92 minutes. He wasn’t particularly good in his cameo roles, but at 22 and almost no budget charge, it was a little shocking to see a longterm academy player cut after just one season. Hopefully he too can find success at the USL level.
These two cases are the latest in a growing trend of former Orlando City homegrowns who’ve made the switch to USL. Santiago Patiño, who was an academy player and draft pick, had some opportunities in MLS but couldn’t really crack the lineup, and joined San Antonio FC, Loera’s new club, on a permanent basis last season. Patiño has had success in USL so far, as well, scoring five goals in 11 games last year. An even better example of the Orlando to USL pipeline is former UCF star and Orlando City draft pick Hadji Barry. He never broke into the Lions first team, and has bounced around USL since. 2021 was his best season, where he scored 25 and assisted five in 32 games for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.