You wondered if the young Lions of Orlando City’s USL reserve squad could ever capitalize on the golden circumstance that was the dumpster fire of a race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. But when their backs finally hit the wall, Anthony Pulis’ men came through. Now, however, they have to face the USL’s best team to extend their season.
Orlando City B travels to Harrison, NJ, to take on the New York Red Bulls II at 4 p.m. today in a playoff match pitting two teams that entered the postseason on opposite trajectories. Long the most talented team in the Eastern Conference, New York overtook Louisville City in midsummer and never looked back, winning the East and the regular season USL title by nine points, earning the right to host every home playoff game, except perhaps the USL Cup Final. The young Lions drew at home to NYRBII and lost 5-1 at Red Bull Arena in a match in which they finished with just nine men.
The Baby Bulls are loaded with young talent across the entire roster, with youngsters Derrick Etienne, Junior Flemings and Brandon Allen leading the highest scoring attack in USL history. In goal, MLS fans will recognize the familiar, Larry Bird-like face of Ryan Meara, who had a role with the senior Red Bulls team and had a cup of coffee with New York City FC at the MLS level.
Last Week’s Lineups
OCB: Ridgers; Turner, Redding, McFadden, Hayden; Neal, P. Ribeiro, Mendoza, Heath, Da Silva; Cox
NYRBII: Meara, Bilyeu, Schmoll, Carroll, Adams, Metzger, Najem, Bezecourt, Etienne, Allen, Bonomo
Keys to Victory
- Be a Nuisance: The Red Bulls sport several talented ball handlers who like to make aggressive runs at defenders, so OCB players should stay in their shirts at all times and play the role of the gadfly. Be physical, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and stay aggressive.
- Score as a Team: Play the ball quickly to teammates and make crisp passes. Those are the keys to upsetting the Bulls, who also sport the league’s stingiest defensive record of 2016, having conceded only 21 goals all year.
- Play with House Money: OCB will not be favored in this game and the Lions will have a lopsided season score differential to the Red Bulls looking them in the face heading into this one. Translation: They have nothing to lose, so go out and play like it. Take risks, play to win, and try and shock the American third division soccer world.