Like a bad blackjack player, Orlando City's USL reserve team went and doubled down on the 0-0 results the club had suffered last week by earning a point on the road against the defending league champions. (Wouldn't it be nice to see a goal in a game in which a purple-clad team from Orlando played? Thank God for the Pride.)
Now tied with the Wilmington Hammerheads and Richmond Kickers at 23 points for the seventh position in the Eastern Conference, Orlando City B (6-6-5, 23 points) travels to South Carolina to take on the Charleston Battery (9-4-4, 31 points) tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET in a rematch in both opponent and location of the match that began the young Lions' recent unbeaten streak, which now sits at five games.
Tonight's game is of particular importance to OCB when it comes to playoff positioning.
The young Lions are due to play against one of their closest rivals for one of the eight playoff spots, the Wilmington Hammerheads, in the game following tonight's contest. However, that game doesn't come for over a week and Wilmington is due to play twice between now and then, while the other team OCB is jostling for position with, the Richmond Kickers, only plays once this week. Should the Hammerheads win both of those games, OCB will be at least three points behind them in the standings when the two teams meet at the Titan Soccer Complex on July 24. Any result besides a win tonight would increase that potential gap, so taking all three points on the road becomes imperative.
The importance of tonight's game, however, does not translate into an easy victory. The Battery sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and have conceded the third-fewest goals in the conference. To boot, Charleston has been excellent at home, having lost only two games, including their last game against OCB. Will lightning strike twice on the road? OCB should hope so.
Like OCB, Charleston enters tonight's match coming off a road draw, though the Battery's came in more dubious circumstances. After holding league-leading Louisville City to zero shots in the first half, Charleston fell behind in the second. However, substitute Chris Tsonis equalized in the 84th minute after a Battery player collided in midair with Louisville goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, jarring the ball loose in the process. To the dismay of the Louisville Slugger Field crowd, there was no foul called on the collision, and Tsonis pounced on the loose ball to secure a valuable point on the road.
The young Lions will continue to play a bit shorthanded, as the senior team has need of multiple players tonight at Red Bull Arena. Also of note is that Anthony Pulis is scheduled to be on the sideline in Harrison, NJ, helping Bobby Murphy with Orlando City. At the OCB helm will be regular reserves assistant Rob Valentino, with help from Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Khano Smith. Talk about your coaching carousels.
Last Week's Lineups
OCB: Mark Ridgers; Zach Hayden, Craig Nitti, Kyle McFadden, Mikey Ambrose; Andrew Ribeiro, Tony Rocha, Johnny Mendoza, Lewis Neal, Pierre Da Silva, Michael Cox
Charleston: Alexander Tambakis; Quniton Griffith, Shawn Ferguson, Taylor Mueller, O'Brian Woodbine; Maikel Chang, Justin Portillo, Atauallah Guerra, Zach Prince; Heviel Cordoves, Ricky Garbanzo
Keys To Victory
- GK of the Year?: Mark Ridgers' play has been a common theme to those following OCB this season, and the Scotsman continues to show his worth time and time again. Ridgers finished last week's 0-0 draw at Rochester with three saves and was a large reason that OCB stayed in the game long enough to secure a road point. Ridgers is third in the league in saves, and should get some consideration for the award given to the USL's best net minder come season's end.
- Overcoming Inconsistency: It's been written in this space before, but the life of an MLS reserve team has built-in challenges, not the least of which is when the big club calls up a few of your regular starters for an MLS game. That was the case last week, where regulars Conor Donovan, Hadji Barry, Devron Garcia and Harrison Heath all were called up to join the senior Lions for their game against Houston. You have to be impressed that a makeshift lineup was able to secure a point on the road against the defending champs, and if OCB is able to readjust back to a more familiar lineup, similar success might not be so far away tonight.
- Shutout Streak?: That 0-0 draw against Rochester was OCB's first shutout in 10 games, a streak that dates all the way back to the young Lions' 1-0 win over FC Montreal back on May 1. Can Ridgers, Mikey Ambrose, and co. repeat that kind of defensive effort tonight? One encouraging sign is that OCB's only other shutout of the season came in the second game of the campaign against these same Charleston Battery.
Tomorrow is Lewis Neal's 35th birthday, so perhaps the young Lions will give their captain something to celebrate tonight.