If I told you that a USL team could take two road games in a week, not score in either and turn them into two points, would you believe me?
That's the kind of Merlin-esque illusion Orlando City B (6-6-6, 24 points) conjured into reality last week when the young Lions took away a point from two consecutive road games with two consecutive 0-0 draws against the Rochester Rhinos and the Charleston Battery. With 10 days' separation between those days of soccer sorcery and tonight's 7:30 p.m. game at the Titan Soccer Complex against the Wilmington Hammerheads (6-7-5, 23 points), Orlando City's USL reserve squad has had plenty of time to rest up, strengthen that defense that performed so well, and also figure out how to put something onto the other side of the goal line besides grass.
The Hammerheads, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of rest or good form heading into this one. Wilmington is coming off of a 4-1 loss at home at the hands of league leader Louisville City, which came on the heels of a 3-0 loss on the road at Bethlehem. In all, Wilmington has had an up-and-down season, which finds the Hammerheads on the outside of the playoff picture, looking in. But the 'Heads are still in the heat of the battle for the eighth position in the Eastern Conference.
In terms of statistics, Wilmington is led in the scoring department by defender Bruno Perone, with five goals on the year, including a converted penalty for the only goal in the Hammerheads' last outing. Their current two-game losing streak immediately followed a two-game winning streak, which is tied for the longest of their season.
OCB and Wilmington have met once already in the season opener, which was a 2-1 loss for the young Lions to start OCB history. This is the second time Wilmington will have traveled to Central Florida to meet this rendition of the USL Lions.
Last Week's Lineups
OCB: Mark Ridgers; Zach Hayden, Craig Nitti, Kyle McFadden, Tyler Turner; Andrew Ribeiro, Tony Rocha, Richie Laryea, Lewis Neal, Marius Obekop; Michael Cox
Wilmington: Eric Ati; Tom Parratt, Bruno Perone, Ashani Fairclough, Stefan Defregger; Zev Taublieb, Logan Miller, Jeff Michaud, Justin Moose, Austin Martz; Casey Townsend
Keys to Victory
- Homecoming: Two road games in one trip certainly isn't that bad, but not having a home game in over three weeks might make some of the players a little homesick for Melbourne. They say playing at home is good for a significant boost, so homecoming games must be doubly important. Take advantage of playing in familiar surroundings and OCB could be on its way to a big win in the playoff race.
- Will a Goalscorer Please Stand Up?: Even with the loss of DP Bryan Rochez as the result of a loan to a Honduran team, Orlando City B isn't without talented players who can put the ball in the back of the net, should they be playing for the reserve side and not supplementing the big club. The problem hasn't been the lack of talent on the field but a lack of production of that talent. I'm looking at you, Michael Cox.
- Three-peat?: Can OCB continue the shutout streak to three games? Two scoreless draws in a row marked the third and fourth shutouts in OCB's history. A sign of a good team, especially at the USL level, is an extended shutout streak at some point or at various points in the season. It's literally impossible to lose if you hold your opponent scoreless, so OCB will likely be looking to roll the good defensive mojo forward into something potentially special.