After a tumultuous week at Orlando City SC, Orlando City B went into Sunday night's game missing several starters who were called in to help the senior team Friday night. While the loss made OCB's task more difficult to gain points in Rochester, it gave others an opportunity to impress. And they did.
In need of additional players for Friday night's clash with the Houston Dynamo, Lions Interim Head Coach Bobby Murphy called on some the young OCB players to fill in. The moves meant that Conor Donovan, Devron Garcia, and Harrison Heath, all key players in the OCB starting 11, would be absent for Sunday night's game.
The call-ups gave some OCB players an opportunity to impress OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis, especially on the back line. While Donovan and Garcia have played all recent games for OCB, their absence meant that Craig Nitti and Kyle McFadden would be needed to fill in.
Both Nitti and McFadden performed admirably for the young Lions, with the latter saving the team from defeat on multiple occassions. Nitti was the star defender in the first half. With Zach Hayden struggling to maintain Marcos Ugarte, Nitti was called on the use his size and strength to avoid a potential lapse at the back.
In the second half, McFadden put on a display of last ditch defending, blocking two shots that almost surely would have given the Rhinos the lead. The first defensive gem came in the 66th minute. After Ryan James played a low cross into the OCB box, striker Christian Volesky played it back for the oncoming Sofiane Tergou. As Tergou launched the ball toward the Lions net, McFadden jumped in front of the shot taking the impact off of his right thigh.
In the 73rd minute, McFadden showed off his heroics again. This time it came from a long ball from the back. Rhinos defender Wal Fall sent a long ball into the box for a sprinting Asani Samuels. As Samuels brought the ball down and prepared to fire on Mark Ridgers, McFadden slid in front of the striker, clearing the ball out of the play, earning a high five from the appreciative Ridgers.
Another player that got an opportunity to shine was Andrew Ribeiro. While Ribeiro does play more than Nitti and McFadden, his role was increased with the absence of Heath, who started for the senior team Friday night. Ribeiro was a strong presence in the Lions midfield, helping to halt Rhinos counter attacks.
With such a young team, OCB players are always looking to impress their coaches or other coaches, as they look to advance their careers. Games like Sunday night, when several players are called in to help a depleted senior team, give players those opportunities. And in Rochester, several players took advantage of those opportunities.
While they may be relegated back to the bench with Donovan, Garcia, and Heath likely returning, it's now clear that OCB is in good hands if starters are needed back with the senior team in the coming months.