MELBOURNE, FL -- For a change it wasn't Orlando City B drawing the red card and going down a man, it was the opposition, Bethlehem Steel FC. But the young Lions (2-5-2, 8 points) failed to take full advantage of a 40-minute manpower edge, drawing 2-2 against the Philadelphia Union's USL side at Titan Soccer Complex. Tyler Turner and Michael Cox provided the scoring for the hosts, who squandered a chance to move ahead of Bethlehem Steel (2-2-3, 9 points) in the USL Eastern Conference standings.
Still, considering the Lions fell behind 2-0, they'll probably be happy with getting a point out of the match.
Excitement was palpable around the Titan Sports Complex, as first-team players Earl Edwards Jr., Luke Boden, Conor Donovan, and Hadji Barry were all in the starting lineup. While Boden and Donovan continue to work themselves back to full health from injuries, Edwards and Barry were with the reserve side to see minutes as they've spent most of their time with the first team on the bench.
However, the game quickly went south. In the 11th minute, midfielder Tony Rocha attempted to slide in and keep a low cross by Eric Ayuk from reaching striker Fabian Herbers. But the ball came off his foot and past Edwards for an own-goal, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Just three minutes later, Derrick Jones played a slick ball through the OCB defense which helped Herbers past Donovan. This time it was the German striker who had the last touch, as he slid the ball past Edwards and into the right corner of the goal to double the visitors' lead.
In the 17th minute, OCB got one of those goals back. After Michael Cox was able to shield the ball from the defender, the ball popped out of his reach. But it set up perfectly for oncoming right back Tyler Turner, who hit a rocket past Bethlehem goalkeeper John McCarthy.
Bethlehem's best chance to make it three in the first half came in the 31st minute, when Leo Fernandes was played on through the OCB defense. As he was about to extend the Steel's lead back to two, Edwards came off his line and made a sliding save, clearing the ball out of play.
The game seemed to change in favor of the Lions in the 50th minute, when the team that has made a weekly habit out of earning a red card saw the opposition have a man sent off. After Turner appeared to push Walter Restrepo down from behind in the box, the Bethlehem midfielder retaliated by going after Turner. His response caught the attention of referee Neil Barbulescu, who showed red to the 27-year-old.
OCB took immediate advantage of the dismissal. Just four minutes after the sending off, Turner sailed a ball over the defense to a waiting Cox, who chested the ball down to his feet and slipped it past McCarthy for the equalizing goal.
With a man advantage and a 2-2 game, OCB pushed for the winner but was unable to capitalize. The final half hour saw an open contest with both teams having multiple opportunities to net a winner. However, the game ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw.
"It's good to come from two goals down, which was really pleasing to see," Head Coach Anthony Pulis said following the draw. "But to be honest it feels like two points dropped. We had an extra man for 35, 40 minutes. We played well in patches but it's going back to the same thing, which we've had for a majority of the year, which is that little bit of extra care in the final third. A pass instead of shooting maybe or the quality of the cross, the quality of the final ball has let us down a little bit."
The man of the match for OCB was right back Tyler Turner. Apart from his assist to Cox on the equalizing goal, Turner's energy in the beginning of the second half set the tone for the Lions. His strength getting forward was a noticeable game changer.
"Tyler was great again going forward," Pulis said. "That's never been in question -- his ability to go forward. He's obviously quick, he's very energetic, he's got good feet, and he's got descent delivery. Tyler's forward play has never been an issue for me and he obviously got forward tonight."
The question coming into the game was the back four. While Turner and Garcia have become regulars in the defense, left back Luke Boden is with the team only until he regains full fitness and Donovan is working his way back from a torn ACL last season. While the lack of playing time together was obvious in the first 15 minutes, they seemed to gel going forward and were able to keep the Steel off the board and allow their offense to come back.
"It's a back four that's been thrown together. We've had one day together. They haven't played together an awful lot," Pulis said. "We gave away two poor goals which, unfortunately, at any level if you defend the way we did at times tonight, you're going to concede goals. But after that I thought we settled down a little bit and looked more solid."
After having three games in the span of a week, OCB will now be off for two weeks. The team returns on May 22 to host the Rochester Rhinos.
Starting XI: Edwards; Turner, Boden, Donovan (McFadden, 60'), Garcia; Neal (c), Mendoza (Obekop, 46'), Heath, Rocha (da Silva, 85'); Cox (Rochez, 82'), Barry
Unused Subs: Fenlason, Ambrose, Ribeiro
Goals: ORL - Turner (17'), Cox (54') BET - Rocha (og) (11'), Herbers (14')
Yellow Cards: ORL - Donovan (35'), Boden (65') BET - Daly (33'), Chambers (87'), Missimo (90')
Red Cards: BET - Restrepo (50')