MELBOURNE, FL -- Orlando City B conceded an equalizing goal with just seconds remaining against the 10-man Wilmington Hammerheads at Titan Soccer Complex, drawing 2-2 and dropping two valuable points. The disappointing draw leaves OCB in the eighth and final playoff spot for the USL's Eastern Conference.
Wilmington had the majority of the chances early on in the game and in the 21st minute nearly capitalized on an OCB mistake. As goalkeeper Mark Ridgers played the goal kick out to Tony Rocha, the midfielder sent a hospital ball right back. Ridgers nonchalantly looked to distribute the ball to a teammate but Justin Moose sprinted toward the goalkeeper. Ridgers quickly attempted to clear the ball which went out of play off of Moose for a goal kick.
In the 27th minute, the deadlock was finally broken on OCB's first good chance. A good run by Marius Obekop allowed him to find Lewis Neal for a quick give and go, sending the midfielder flying into the box. Attempting a last second save, midfielder Liam Miller came flying in for a slide tackle. However, he took down Obekop in the process which forced the referee to award OCB a penalty.
On the ensuing spot kick, striker Michael Cox sent the goalkeeper, Eric Ati, the wrong way, giving OCB a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second half, Wilmington struck back after a flurry of sustained pressure and set pieces just after the break. A corner kick by Micheal Binns was headed down into the six, allowing Ashani Fairclough to tap it in with the outside of his right foot for the equalizer.
"It's something we talked about at halftime," OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis said about the lapse. "You come out in the second half and we give up four or five corners on the bounce and you give up a sloppy goal like that -- very, very disappointing."
The game seemed to change in favor of the Lions in the 52nd minute. After Bruno Perone was taken down by Andrew Ribeiro, giving the visitors a free kick, Perone inexplicably picked up the ball and threw it at Ribeiro, hitting the OCB midfielder in the face. The action earned Perone a red card and gave the Lions a man advantage.
Following the sending off, OCB dominated play, looking for the go-ahead goal. The Lions finally found it in the 82nd minute. With the Lions pressing, it was a missed clearance by Wilmington that gave OCB the opportunity. The errant ball found Tony Rocha at the top of the box who, after taking a touch to his right to create some space, fired on goal. The shot took a deflection off the defender which allowed it to get past Ati to give the Lions the apparent winning goal.
"It was a deflection that came out to the top of the box," Rocha said following the game. "I got a touch around the player and got a shot off and luckily it deflected off the guy and went in."
It looked as though the Lions had secured all three points but, despite playing a man down, Wilmington came on strong at the end. And in the second minute of injury time, found the late equalizer. With time winding down, Stefan Defregger found himself with the ball in the box. He quickly played it across for Logan Miller who touched it back for Liam Miller waiting at the top of the box. With a deft touch, the latter Miller lifted the ball over Ridgers and just under the bar for the equalizer.
"We didn't clear the ball properly. We didn't step up our lines and were a little too deep," Rocha said about the late goal. "It felt more like a loss than a tie."
"I thought it's probably the poorest we've been all season," Pulis said about the game. "So, really disappointed. I thought we were going to get away with it and see it out but unfortunately we couldn't kill the game off. It's really, really disappointing considering we were up a man."
The draw places the Lions in eighth place, which is the final playoff spot in the USL's Eastern Conference. They currently have 25 points in 19 games. They'll take the field again next Saturday when they travel to play Louisville City FC in Kentucky.
Starting XI: Ridgers; Hayden (Turner, 54'), Ambrose, Garcia, McFadden; Ribeiro, Rocha, Neal (c), Obekop (Matarrazo, 68'), Mendoza (Laryea, 46'); Cox
Unused Subs: Fenlason, Nitti, Loera, Smith
Goals: ORL – Cox (Pen, 27'), Rocha (82') WIL – Fairclough (48'), Li. Miller (90'+2)
Yellow Cards: ORL – Laryea (89') WIL – Binns (23'), Li. Miller (26'), Fairclough (72')
Red Cards: WIL – Perone (52')