Orlando City B recorded its first home win Sunday night with a 1-0 defeat of FC Montreal. It was OCB's fourth time playing at Eastern Florida State College on its home field, and it used an early header from Michael Cox to bury Montreal and take the three points in front of its home fans for the first time ever in USL, and it did it despite a red card for Devron Garcia.
OCB's starting lineup was highlighted by six MLS players in Tyler Turner, Garcia, Richie Laryea, Harrison Heath, Bryan Róchez, and the return of Conor Donovan. It was Donovan's first competitive game since he tore his ACL last August.
The home side got off to a good start with Lewis Neal on the left in place of Pierre da Silva who has been away with the U.S. U-19 national team competing in the Slovakia Cup. Neal created multiple opportunities for the Lions in the opening minutes, finally breaking through in the ninth minute. Turner drove down the right, sending a ball across the box toward Neal who then headed it back into the six onto the head of striker Michael Cox, who put it away for the game's only goal.
"We've worked on some bits and pieces this week on seeing if we can get some overloads down the side," Head Coach Anthony Pulis said following the game. "And we got that. [Neal] put a good ball in and Coxy finished it off really well."
After a good start, the game changed in the 18th minute when OCB received yet another red card. After Donovan misplayed the ball, FC Montreal played it forward for Charles Joly. Garcia came over from the left to pick up the loose ball but Joly beat him to it, with Garcia taking the forward down. As the last defender, the referee had no choice but to send off the Honduran.
Down a man, OCB was forced to play a more defensive game from then on out, which involved dealing with a strong Montreal attack. That meant once again depending on a brilliant performance by goalkeeper Mark Ridgers who was forced into several diving saves.
The closest chance for the visitors came in the 79th minute when David Choiniere ripped a shot from the top of the box. But Ridgers was up to the task, tipping it over the bar.
The last 20 minutes was a much more open game with FC Montreal pushing for a goal and OCB attempting to catch them on the counter. Both teams saw multiple opportunities but neither was able to convert, and the Lions were able to hold off their opponents for a 1-0 victory.
The biggest news from Sunday night's game was the return of center back Conor Donovan. After being out for nearly nine months, the second-round draft pick from the 2015 MLS SuperDraft out of N.C. State played the first 45 minutes. It's a big moment for the club, who are short on first-team center backs after trading Aurélien Collin to New York Red Bulls earlier in the week.
"I thought he did great tonight," Pulis said of Donovan's first game back. "It isn't easy when you haven't played for nine months but I thought he slotted in and did well. And he'll only get better from here on in."
As for OCB, it'll be a quick turnaround. Having won two of their last three games, the Lions will play again Wednesday night as they host expansion side FC Cincinnati.
Starting XI: Ridgers, Turner, Donovan (Ribeiro, 46'), D. Garcia, Ambrose, Laryea (Mendoza, 38'), Heath, Rocha (Callan-McFadden, 22'), Neal ©, Rochez (Smith, 46'), Cox (Eyang, 78')
Unused Subs: Fenlason, Obekop
Goals: ORL - Cox (9')
Yellow Cards: ORL - Cox (6'), MON - Riggi (15'), Dominguez (54'), Charbonneau (66')
Red Cards: ORL - Garcia (18')