MELBOURNE -- It was another wet and stormy night in Melbourne as Orlando City B drew 0-0 with the Charleston Battery in the second game of the 2016 USL season.
For the third straight week, lightning forced a delay at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, causing a nearly hour delay just after the National Anthem. When the teams finally took the field, it was the Lions that took control of the game early, handling much of the possession.
Charleston had a couple of good chances in the first 10 minutes, but OCB worked the ball through the midfield well with Andrew Ribeiro, Tony Rocha, and Lewis Neal, along the left with Mikey Ambrose and Pierre da Silva. The best scoring chance of the first half came in the 43rd minute, with da Silva taking the ball across the top of the box and firing a shot on target but it went right into the chest of Battery goalkeeper Alex Tambakis.
In the 32nd minute, captain Lewis Neal made way for Jonathan Mendoza shortly after Neal blocked a shot with his chest. "Lewis pick up a little niggle so we didn't want to take any risks with him," Head Coach Anthony Pulis said following the game. "We'll assess him in the morning and see how he is and go from there."
Charleston got off to a strong start in the second half, forcing OCB goalkeeper Mark Ridgers into an early save. It didn't get any easier for the Lions when Rocha picked up his second yellow just five minutes into the second half, putting the Lions a man down.
Charleston striker Ricky Garbanzo put most of the stress on the Lions' defense, coming close to the opening goal on three different occasions. In the 54th minute, after a quick give-and-go between O'Brian Woodbine and Maikel Chang, Garbanzo laid a low shot, forcing Ridgers into a stellar diving, one-handed save to keep the game scoreless.
A man down, the Lions defended for their lives with 10 men behind the ball. The closest the Battery came to breaking through was in the 85th minute, when Garbanzo struck the inside of the right post from just outside the box.
While the Battery controlled the second half, the man of the match for the Lions was Ridgers who made several fantastic saves to keep his team alive. "Mark just showed tonight why I think so highly of him," Pulis said of his shot stopper. "I think he was outstanding. I think his experience, his professionalism really shone through and he's been excellent since he joined us."
After being forced to the bench in the first game when first team backup Earl Edwards came down to make the start, Ridgers was pleased with his first start. "As a goalkeeper, the first thought in a game is not to concede a goal," Ridgers said following the game. "To contribute to the point is a massive bonus."
Ridgers also feels that this performance will give him confidence going forward. "To make a save that's important to win a point for the team, it's a massive boost," the 25-year-old Scotsman said. "And it gives me plenty of confidence going into the next week."
That next game will be next Saturday night when the Lions take on Louisville City FC, the club's former affiliate, on the road.