SANFORD, Fla. – What's it like to make the jump to professional soccer? Playing against older, more experienced competition. Adjusting to the speed of the game. Treating it as a career, with the lifestyle that goes into becoming a good pro.
Still, it hasn't always been easy to make the adjustment.
Not even a two-year stint together in the U.S. Soccer U-17 Bradenton Residency Program could fully prepare Turner and Redding for life as professionals with Orlando City.
The heavy workload they’ve put in this year should suit the young defenders well when they move up to Major League Soccer with the club in 2015.
Turner (pictured above), 18, and Redding (below right), 17, have logged heavy minutes since joining the Lions earlier this year. They’ve also been making quite the impression after becoming Orlando City’s fourth and fifth MLS signees, respectively.
“The reason we signed them is because we think they’ve got huge upside,” Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said earlier this season. “Those two have got a bright future ahead of them if they keep their heads down, keep listening and learning, and God willing no injuries, they’re going to have a great future.”
The immediate future is of most importance as Orlando City recently wrapped up its 28-match USL PRO regular season schedule with a 19-4-5 mark and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Lions host Harrisburg City in the opening round on Saturday.
The speed of the game is the one thing that both Turner and Redding were most struck by upon joining the Lions for preseason workouts that included matches against MLS competition and training sessions against older, more experienced teammates.
“It’s been a lot to take in, but I’m glad I’ve been able to do it in USL PRO before moving on to MLS,” said Redding, a center back who was signed as the club’s first Homegrown Player. “I think I’ve adapted pretty well. When we started the game was so fast to me. Every day in practice I’ve been getting better and it’s been getting easier.”
Redding has spent time away from the club this season with the U-18 US national team. He was leaning towards a pro career in Europe with clubs in either France or Germany, but when the Orlando City offer came his way, he decided that playing close to his hometown of Oviedo alongside a former teammate was the ideal fit.
- Find the latest OCSC news at OrlandoCitySoccer.com
“That was a big part of it,” Redding said. “I had this one year to start my professional soccer career here, maybe not at the highest level, but it’s perfect because I can get my games in and not have to worry too much about making mistakes. This year has really helped me adapt to becoming a professional.”
A year apart in age, Turner and Redding roomed together at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and became close friends while playing alongside each other on the U-17 team that became the first group to fail in qualifying for the World Cup a year ago.
The national team experience serves as motivation for them both, but their individual success, coupled with that of the team, has validated their roster spots up to this point.
“Tyler was the captain of the national team at the time and he brought me in,” Redding said of his arrival at IMG. “It’s great that we’re both able to start here in Orlando together. I remember our first international tournament, we were playing side by side right next to each other, and now we’re doing that again professionally right here in Orlando.”
Redding signed with Orlando City in March. A month earlier, Turner bypassed his college commitment to UCLA and interest from lower-division clubs in Brazil and England to sign with the Lions just before his 18th birthday.
“After going through that whole experience together with someone you know, going through this together at the same time has been an added bonus for us,” said Turner, who switched to right back this season with the Lions.
“I could feel the positive energy coming through once I got here,” he said of joining Orlando City. “It’s been a good buildup for MLS. The environment and the setting with these guys, how they brought me into the group right away and have been helping me out has been great.”