LOUISVILLE, KY -- If you're one to like dramatic endings, tonight's OCB game was for you. Trailing 1-0 in the closing minutes, Orlando City B (7-6-7, 28 points) scored twice in stoppage time to defeat USL-leading Louisville City (12-3-7, 42 points) on the road in front of a crowd of 8,351 at Louisville Slugger Field.
The game started in relatively slow fashion. Neither team controlled play in the opening 10 minutes, and Orlando City B had the first truly dangerous chance when a Jonathan Mendoza cross went off the outside of the near post in the fifth minute of play.
The league leaders got on the board in the 13th minute on the second of consecutive corner kicks. University of Louisville product Paolo del Piccolo found Israeli midfielder Guy Abend for the poorly defended header, which would have been a difficult save for OCB goalkeeper Mark Ridgers. It was Abend's fourth goal of the season.
Though service was fairly difficult to come by, Canadian forward Michael Cox registered two shots in the first stanza for the young Lions. On two other opportunities, however, Cox was clearly second best in one-on-one offensive opportunities. Louisville defender Sean Reynolds made strong tackles to take the ball away from Cox on both chances, and snuffed out what might have been clear shooting opportunities for OCB's leading scorer.
Ridgers continued his stellar play for OCB in the first half, with a trio of saves, including a stop on a dangerous free kick from the feet of Louisville midfielder Niall McCabe.
Louisville City led by a goal at the break, 1-0.
The second half didn't start so well for the Scotsman, however. Ridgers came out to contest a cross in the 57th minute, but slipped on the artificial turf used to cover up the baseball infield at Louisville Slugger Field and couldn't cleanly punch the ball away. Louisville's Kadeem Dacres couldn't corral the deflection and eventually the danger dissipated when a Guy Abend shot went way over the bar.
The young Lions came out in the second half playing much more physically than they had in the first stanza, and it led to a more wide open game on both ends. Orlando City academy player David Loera came on in the second half and made his presence felt in the 67th minute with the best chance of the game for OCB. The youngster broke into the open between several Louisville defenders and forced a strong save from Louisville goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh.
The physical nature of the game boiled over in the 83rd minute. A Louisville foul saw del Piccolo of Louisville and Jonathan Mendoza eventually fall to the ground after the two bumped into one another while being surrounded by their shouting teammates. As is tradition in soccer (as opposed to hockey or 1970s basketball), no punches or full blown shoves were thrown, and calling the skirmish a fight would be a direct slap in the face to the term.
Just as it looked like OCB's unbeaten run was coming to an end, Anthony Pulis' boys rallied to somehow change the story.
Two consecutive corners in the dying moments of regular time saw OCB win a penalty. As the second corner was being taken, del Piccolo pulled down Tony Rocha in a move that Pulis had been seeing all night. Referee Jon Freeman whistled him for the foul, leading to a prolonged protest from Louisville City players.
"(The foul) happened on three or four occasions," Pulis said after the match. "There was a couple in the first half where Tony Rocha gets pulled down and the one before it was the penalty kick, del Piccolo had his arms all over Ribeiro. So for me it was definitely a penalty kick."
Tyler Turner converted the PK.
But OCB wasn't done there.
Scrambling to try and reclaim a game they thought they had won, Louisville City players committed numbers into the attack and became susceptible to the counter. The youngster Loera, who showed well for himself all game, flew down to the right edge of the Louisville box and cut the ball back across to a wide open Keegan Smith. Smith mishit his shot but caught Ranjitsingh going the wrong way and found the back of the net.
"It was a transition in the middle of the field and we countered quickly," Pulis said of the winning attack. "Little David Loera -- who I'm really pleased for, a boy that has a lot of talent and we've got high hopes for -- and he puts a cross in. Listen, I'm not gonna lie, Keegan ends up mishitting it and kicks it into the ground. Sometimes you need that little bit of luck. Last week we conceded a goal in the last minute to tie a game and this week we scored two in stoppage time to win a game."
Louisville City had one final chance that didn't amount to a shot, and the referee blew the final whistle to complete the wild comeback finish.
"To be honest, I thought (the result) was the least we deserved," Pulis said. "I know we scored two stoppage-time goals, but on the balance of play, it was as good as we've played on the road this year."
OCB's unbeaten run now sits at eight games (3-0-5), and the win puts them within three points of Charlotte for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The young Lions will take the field on Saturday night against Toronto FC II at the Titan Soccer Complex. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.
Starting XI: Ridgers, Turner, Ambrose, McFadden, Matarazzo, Mendoza, A. Ribeiro (c), Rocha, Obekop (Loera, 54'), Smith, Cox
Unused Subs: Fenalson, Hayden, McCloskey, Aguilera, Eyang
Goals: ORL - Turner (PK, 90'), Smith (90') LOU - Abend (13')
Yellow Cards: ORL - Cox (70') Smith (90') LOU - Reynolds (43')
Red Cards: N/A