The Orange County Soccer Club, which has been adding teenagers faster than a K-Pop band, collected two more in the last week when it signed Bryang Kayo, a 17-year-old midfielder who had been on an academy contract with D.C. United, and Diego Lopez, a 17-year-old forward from Chino who was playing for Atlanta United USL affiliate.
Kayo and Lopez were teammates on the U.S. under-17 national team, where they also played with OCSC goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes. Kayo, a box-to-box midfielder, was signed last week while Lopez’s acquisition will be formally announced by the club late Tuesday morning.
Earlier this summer the team signed 14-year-old Francis Jacobs, making the Laguna Beach midfielder the youngest U.S. male to sign a professional soccer contract.
“Diego is a special player to me personally having worked with him for a few years when he was 11-12 years old,” Orange County coach Braeden Cloutier said. “Diego is a big strong center forward who can score goals and hold the ball up. He has all the raw attributes to play at the next level and the structure we have created will give him an excellent platform to develop and reach his full potential.”
Lopez signed his first professional contract with Atlanta United 2 in January of last year and went on to make his debut for the club against Bethlehem Steel later that year. Lopez is eligible to play this weekend when OCSC resumes its USL Championship schedule against Rio Grande Valley FC.
OCSC’s stockpiling of young players is part of a “Pathway to Professional” project owner James Keston and general manager Oliver Wyss hope will make the team a stepping stone from youth leagues to the top ranks of professional soccer.
“We feel very strongly about developing the local talent,” said Wyss, who believes the team will be able to finance the project through transfer fees the young players will generate. “We’re building a training structure, an environment, [where] these young talented players have the opportunity now. And we’re looking at these players as assets.
If they play here and they do well, we don’t want this to be the end piece. We want to move them on and transfer them into Europe and into Mexico or maybe even the MLS.”