If someone told you three weeks ago that OCB would beat the defending USL champs, would you have believed them?
That's exactly the result Orlando City B (3-5-2, 11 points) will be hoping is the start of some serious winning momentum tonight when it takes on the Charlotte Independence (5-2-2, 17 points) at 7:30 at The Titan Soccer Complex at Eastern Florida State College.
Facing the Rochester Rhinos last week, Hadji Barry scored twice to propel the young Lions to a 2-1 victory. For his efforts, Barry was rewarded with a place on the USL Team of the Week as well as three points for his team in what was just the third victory in team history. He was also called back up to the senior club, for which he made an appearance in Wednesday's 2-2 draw vs. Philadelphia.
In its second year of existence, tonight's opponent, Charlotte, is the USL affiliate of the Colorado Rapids and currently sits tied with USL darlings FC Cincinnati for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. After a shaky start to the season, which saw the Independence lose two of its first three games, Charlotte has rattled off a six-game unbeaten run, the first four games of which were victories.
Interestingly, Charlotte is also coming off of a league game with the Rochester Rhinos, but the Independence could only play to a 0-0 draw with the champs. A game against Cincinnati scheduled last weekend was delayed by weather, and Charlotte has played a U.S. Open Cup match since its last league outing.
Charlotte is led in the attack by former Seattle Sounders forward David Estrada -- who made 41 appearances for the Sounders, scoring a hat trick on opening day in 2012 -- and former Real Salt Lake draft choice Enzo Martinez. Defensively, big Patrick Slogic plays a vital role for the Independence, where he is not only a threat to break up crosses with his head but can also be a set piece asset on the other end of the field. On the sideline, Head Coach Mike Jeffries is the only coach the Independence has known since taking the Charlotte Eagles place in the league after the latter club downsized to a PDL outfit.
OCB will be without the services of standout goalkeeper Mark Rigders, who will be getting married across the pond in the United Kingdom. Jake Fenlason is expected to get the start, Sean Lewis will be on loan from the Jacksonville Armada of the NASL for just this game as insurance, and FIU goalkeeper Arthur Clapot is on trial with OCB. Additionally, starters from last week Conor Donovan and Devron Garcia have been called up to the big club, meaning they won't be available for the B-side..
Last Week's Lineups
OCB: Mark Ridgers*; Tyler Turner, Mikey Ambrose, Conor Donovan*, Devron Garcia*; Lewis Neal, Andrew Ribeiro, Tony Rocha, Pierre da Silva, Richie Laryea; *Hadji Barry
Charlotte: Cody Mizell; Patrick Slogic, Henry Kalugani, Bilal Duckett, Joel Johnson; Zach Pfeffer, Yann Ekra, Jun Marques Davidson; Enzo Martinez, Brian Brown, David Estrada
*Ridgers, Donovan and Garcia will be unavailable tonight and as of this writing, Barry may also be traveling to New York with the senior club.
Keys To Victory
- Another Strong Defensive Effort: Scoring 13 goals so far this season doesn't exactly put them at the top of the heap, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the scoring prowess of Charlotte. Before its recent streak of two draws, Charlotte scored nine goals in a four-game winning streak. Estrada is dangerous and Martinez is tied for the team lead in goals scored, with three. Luckily for OCB, co-leading goalscorer Caleb Calvert has been recalled to Colorado and will not be available for Charlotte tonight.
- Can the replacement step up?: Bachelorette fans of Orlando City B will be upset at Mark Ridgers' wedding absence, not only because the young Scotsman will no longer be on the dating market, but because he has been so good between the pipes for OCB. In steps Jake Fenlason for the big opportunity, and the former Akron Zip would do well for himself with a big performance tonight.
- Keep the party rolling: Hadji Barry maintained the momentum of OCB starting strikers last week with his two goals. Barry, Michael Cox and Bryan Rochez account for seven of OCB's 11 goals scored this season, which is a promising stat for the triumvirate.