As we count down to the new year of 2017 – which will be Orlando City SC's third in MLS and second in the NWSL – and say goodbye to 2016, it's time to look back at the club's 10 best moments of the year.
Coming in at No.4 in our Top 10 countdown of 2016 is Orlando City B clinching a playoff spot in the last game of the regular season. OCB’s inaugural USL season seemed to be sliding off the rails heading into the last day, but the young Lions still had one chance to change their destiny on the road in the Keystone State.
It had been a rough patch of results for OCB leading into the Bethlehem game. The team was coming off five straight losses and was winless in its previous eight games. Anthony Pulis’ side had started the season slowly, collecting one win in the first five games, and risked bookending the season with losing stretches. The last game in Pennsylvania offered Orlando a much-needed lifeline.
Orlando City B required all three points in its away game against Bethlehem Steel to grab the final playoff spot in the east. The teams met earlier in the season, in Melbourne, and played to a 2-2 draw. The game with Bethlehem looked to be a potentially tricky match-up since Bethlehem was a team with nothing to play for, having already been eliminated from the playoffs.
The Lions opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a tap-in goal from Johnny Mendoza. Despite the early goal, the Lions endured 13 shots from the home team in the first half while only producing one other shot of their own in the half. The Lions were able to add to their lead 13 minutes after the break. Lewis Neal’s fine strike provided some breathing room, and the Lions were able to hold on for the 2-0 away win.
.@lewis_neal24 pushes @OrlandoCityB one step closer to the #USLPlayoffs! BSTvORL pic.twitter.com/qhqZeMWY5I— USL (@USL) September 25, 2016
Sadly, the season came to an end with a first-round playoff loss away to the eventual USL champions, New York Red Bulls II. The regular season record wasn’t what the team would’ve wanted, but the Lions were able to dig out a playoff berth with their backs against the wall. OCB’s season was successful in the sense that it offered professional experience to some of Orlando’s young talent. For more on the OCB season, read Sean Rollins’ report on the team’s growth and player development in his season review.
We are getting closer to our No. 1 moment of the year. Tomorrow we dip into the top three. Think you know what’s next? Drop your prediction in the comments section — before tomorrow, of course.
Come back every day through New Year's Eve to count down the remainder of Orlando City's top 10 moments of 2016.
Check out the rest of our top 10 Orlando City moments of 2016:
10. Orlando City secures two international partnerships.
9. Orlando City signs Antonio Nocerino and Julio Baptista.
8. MLS Commissioner Don Garber looks on as the first seats are installed in Orlando City’s new downtown soccer stadium.
7. Orlando City kicks off the Jason Kreis era with a victory over New England.
6. Orlando City dismantles defending champion Portland, 4-1.
5. Steph Catley scores first Orlando Pride goal.