Orlando City B played its first USL game but came up just short, falling to the Wilmington Hammerheads 2-1 at Eastern Florida State College's Titan Soccer Complex. An announced crowd of 2,078 braved inclement weather to see the team's first match.
The Lions got off to a good start in the first half, controlling possession and creating chances. Most of the focus for the OCB attack early on consisted of playing long balls forward for rookie striker Hadji Barry. However, as the half went on, the Lions began a more formulated attack up the left side with Mikey Ambrose and 17-year-old Homegrown Player Pierre da Silva, a tandem that had been successful during preseason.
Play came to a halt 16 minutes in, when lightning forced the players off the pitch. After about a 40-minute delay, the teams returned to resume the match. Following the stoppage, OCB started where it left off, creating multiple opportunities, but the Lions were unable to convert and the two teams went into the half scoreless.
Wilmington got off to a great start in the second half and opened the scoring less than a minute in. After a Hammerheads corner kick was cleared back outside by the OCB defense, the second cross was converted on a diving header from Wilmington striker Ashani Fairclough.
Ten minutes later, the Lions struck back. OCB created a flurry of chances, putting the Hammerheads on their heels and midfielder Andrew Ribeiro netted the equalizing goal. He celebrated the goal like this:
As play continued with a 1-1 score, a certain feistiness was added to the game. OCB midfielder Tony Rocha took a hard fall after being taken down by Mael Carboz, drawing a yellow card. Just a minute later, Kyle Callan-McFadden was issued OCB's first caution for a hard challenge.
OCB nearly took the lead in the 59th minute, when Barry finished a good run by laying the ball off to Richie Laryea. But the first touch by Laryea sent the ball soaring over the post, squandering OCB's best chance of the game.
In the 66th minute, Wilmington scored for the second time. After an initial shot was cleared by the Lions defense, midfielder Logan Miller struck a low hard shot from about 25 yards out, beating a diving Earl Edwards Jr. to his far right post, giving the Hammerheads a 2-1 lead.
With the Hammerheads bunkering down to protect their advantage and the Lions pushing for the equalizer, OCB dominated the final 20 minutes, creating several chances. But the Hammerheads held strong and were able to fend off the furious OCB attack.
Head Coach Anthony Pulis was disappointed with the result and admitted the team's struggles in the final third. "I thought we had some decent spells of play at times," Pulis said following the game. "We got the ball in good areas but our final ball, our final decision wasn't on point tonight."
After the loss, Pulis maintained his mantra from preseason about looking at the big picture. "I'm not going to be a coach that gets too high when things go well," Pulis said, "and I'm not going to be a coach that gets too low when things don't go well."
Goal scorer Andrew Ribeiro echoed those comments. "We talked a lot about how there are 30 games and this is one of the 30," he said.
Following a disappointing result in the season opener, OCB will head back to the training field and prepare for next week when, the Lions host the Charleston Battery.