LOUISVILLE, KY -- Three games into the inaugural season for Orlando City B, and the reserve side is still looking for its first win. Home side Louisville City (2-1-0, 6 points) dominated the match for long stretches over OCB (0-2-1, 1 point) and came away with the 4-1 victory at a cold Louisville Slugger Field before an announced crowd of over 5,000.
"We obviously started well," OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis said after the game. "Got a good goal early on. From then on in I thought we got beat by the better team. I thought Louisville were better in every department, on the ball, of the ball. I just said to our guys (in the locker room) I think that was a good learning experience for us."
Despite the poor result of the match, OCB started off on the front foot. After failing to score a goal last week, the club didn't wait very long to get on the board in this one. In the sixth minute of play, starting striker Michael Cox got on the end of a slick Richie Laryea back heel that caught the Louisville City defense off guard. Cox's first-time left-footed finish bested a rooted Scott Goodwin and found the upper-corner to give the Young Lions the early 1-0 lead.
After the game, Pulis was pleased with the assist and the overall performance of Richie Laryea. "Richie showed flashes tonight. It's probably taken him a little bit of time to find his feet. It's always difficult for guys coming out of college to adjust to the professional game. Richie's got ability."
On the other end of the pass was Michael Cox who became the first striker this season to score for the team, and Pulis wasn't shy about giving praise about the other Canadian striker that wears Orlando purple. "We were really pleased with Michael Cox tonight. Michael's someone who we like, who we think highly of. He's had an injury... given the start tonight and I thought he was really good for sixty minutes."
For their part, Louisville City answered in kind. The next several minutes saw Louisville win lots of possession and attempt to get several crosses into the box from out wide. After 21 minutes of pressure, Louisville equalized in the 26th minute. Kadeem Dacres switched sides from his usual position on the right wing and got in a low cross that ex-LA Galaxy striker Chandler Hoffman slid in and flipped over Mark Ridgers head for the equalizer.
The rest of the half saw Orlando and Louisville go back and forth, with Louisville getting most of the possession and chances. Orlando was limited to counter opportunities, and nearly took the lead off of a creative free kick opportunity that was reminiscent of a USA free kick against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.
OCB fought and clawed its way for the rest of the half and went into the break level at 1-1, though that would change nearly immediately after the second half starting whistle. Louisville City won a free kick around thirty yards out and towards the right wing inside the first minute of the second stanza. Louisville midfielder Paul del Piccolo swung in a terrific ball that found the head of Andrew Lubahn to put Louisville into a quick second half 2-1 lead. Lubahn's header was contested but found the back of the net anyway.
Orlando City's reserve side struggled for long stretches in the second half to build any kind of chance, and Louisville eventually took advantage to add the lead in the 65th minute. Louisville Man of the Match, Kadeem Dacres, got the ball in several yards of space at the top of the box and unleashed a left-footed effort that gave Ridgers just about zero chance to make a save. Louisville was the better team up to that point and the 3-1 score reflected that.
Richie Laryea had an excellent chance to answer nearly immediately after the goal when he got free behind the Louisville backline on the left side of Louisville's attacking box. His right-footed curler saw Louisville keeper Scott Goodwin make a spectacular flying save to maintain Louisville's 3-1 advantage. The save was worthy of USL Save of the Week.
"At 3-1 we had a good twenty minute spell," Pulis said. "Richie had a decent effort that Goodwin ended up saving well and on another day that goes in, it's 3-2 and all of the sudden the momentum's with us."
Louisville continued to put pressure on the OCB goal and made a bad scoreline worse for the visitors. In the 91st minute Louisville substitute Illija Illic slipped in behind the OCB backline and found himself one on one with Ridgers. Illic slipped the simple finish past Ridgers to put the home side into a three goal lead, on a goal that exposed OCB's center back pairing. The 4-1 scoreline would be the final.
When asked about the play of his backline, Pulis saw room for improvement. "There's obviously areas where they were a little bit naive in their decision making. But look, they're young players and they're gonna learn from this experience. You don't want to concede four goals. I'm very critical of them defensively and I feel like all four goals could've been stopped.
"To be fair to Louisville they took (their goals) well. But it's an area where we have to look at for sure."
Mark Ridgers continued to play well in goal after his USL Team of the Week performance last week, ending the game with five saves including a strong one in the 82nd minute on a George Davis IV shot from around 20 yards out. Though Louisville scored four goals, three of them were certainly not his fault. The same cannot be said for the OCB back four. After a strong first half in which the OCB defense fought off several Louisville chances, the second half was a different story for the foursome. As Louisville continually mounted pressure, OCB's defense just seemed to run out of gas on a cold night.
Considering the loss, Pulis was taking away positives from this performance for his young team, and chalked it up to a learning experience. "A positive is Michael Cox's performance. Hopefully in a few month's time we can look back on this as a real good learning experience and a turning point for our season. Maybe it's a good thing that this has happened early on for some of those guys to see what the level is and the standard is that we aspire to get to."
OCB will next take the field at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday night at home against the Harrisburg City Islanders in search of its first win. Keep it locked on TML for all your OCB coverage.