The 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season has featured many of the top, young goalkeeping prospects, but after only seven appearances for Orlando City B, Javier Otero is starting to stand out from the pack.
Otero, a Venezuelan native, has been one of the standout stars in the inaugural league season, remaining the No. 1 option in Martin Perelman’s squad. Born in Cumana, Venezuela, Otero has made the most of his time in the United States, rising to the occasion within the Orlando City academy and overcoming several challenges along the way.
“I was born and raised in Venezuela,” Otero told MLS NEXT Pro in an interview. I've been playing soccer since I was four years old. My family has always liked the sport and I have been involved in it since I was little. I came here on vacation, I had some cousins who lived here and ended up staying.
“When I got here I started playing in high school, and after that, I went to tryouts at the Orlando City academy,” Otero added. “It was the Under-17 team and I kept moving up to the U-19’s and so on. It was very very challenging because it’s something new. We didn’t know anything about this country. When I started school here I didn’t know how to speak English and I didn’t know anything about the U.S. I started school a month after I got here and everything was new, I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have anybody so I think that was very challenging for me.”
Otero made one appearance for OCB during the 2020 USL League One season but had to wait almost two years to make his next start due to a combination of a fractured hand and the absence of a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 19-year-old has not dipped in production despite the lengthy layoff, earning MLS NEXT Pro’s Goalkeeper of the Month honors in March and April, and helping OCB to a current seventh-place spot in the Eastern Conference.
Otero leads the league with 37 saves through seven appearances, and ranks in the top five with three clean sheets, while only conceding seven goals to date. He has stood on his head in several performances throughout the opening two months, keeping OCB in the early race for a top-four spot in the East.
“I felt really good, I thank God and all the people that helped me with that,” Otero said about his Goalkeeper of the Month honors. “It shows the work we’ve been putting in for a long time and how it’s paying off.
“Everything has been good so far, everything’s been perfect, and we have lots of talent,” Otero added. “We have to keep working to achieve our goal of trying to win the league.”
Otero isn’t the only South American goalkeeper within Orlando City’s squad, as Peruvian international Pedro Gallese continues to shine for the Lions in MLS play. Gallese, 32, has been a consistent starter for the Lions since his arrival from Liga MX side Veracruz in 2020.
However, Gallese’s long-term future with Orlando City is undetermined, and with Otero raising eyebrows in MLS NEXT Pro, the young goalkeeper could play himself into a first-team spot for the 2022-23 season.
Otero’s main focus remains on Orlando City B and his progression in MLS NEXT Pro, but he isn’t shy about his long-term goals for club and country.
“My first goal would be to play for Venezuela’s National team,” Otero said. “We’ve been talking but it’s not time yet. [Another goal would be to earn] A contract in the first division.”