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Orlando City B vs. Richmond Kickers: Match Preview and How to Watch

After two straight blowout losses, OCB begins a crucial home and away series with the Richmond Kickers. Can the young Lions maintain their USL Playoff position?

Matt Starkey, The Mane Land

If you back in to the playoffs, they still let you in, don't they?

The young Lions of Orlando City B (8-8-7, 31 points) hope that question goes unanswered in a few weeks' time and figure to do their best to make that so tonight against the Richmond Kickers (11-6-6, 39 points) at 7:30 in the penultimate home game at the Titan Soccer Complex in Melbourne. Back-to-back blowout losses have brought the trajectory of OCB's season into question, but the Orlando City USL reserve squad is still five points clear of Bethlehem Steel FC for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

After getting thumped 5-1 at league-leading New York Red Bulls II, OCB hoped to bounce back in a positive fashion to close out a two-game road trip, but failed to do so in a 4-0 loss at the Charlotte Independence. Charlotte scored early and often, and Orlando City B was relegated to a couple of penalty shouts as a substitute for serious offensive efforts. In two games away from home, OCB was outscored 9-1, but still managed to cling to that all important playoff spot.

Unfortunately for OCB, tonight's opponents do not represent a step down in competition at all. Richmond currently sits tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference as one of the hottest teams in the league. The Kickers are unbeaten in seven, which includes six straight wins prior to last week's tie at home to Cincinnati. Over that span, Richmond has outscored its opponents 14-3, winning all four road games. The biggest win of the streak was undoubtedly against the title-favorite Red Bulls II of New York, when the Kickers defeated the Baby Bulls, 2-1.

Founded in 1993, Richmond is among the oldest currently and continuously operated professional soccer teams in the United States, and since 2013 the Kickers have been the USL affiliate of D.C. United. In total, Richmond has four players on loan from D.C., with one player on loan from the New England Revolution as well. On the field, Richmond is led in scoring by 25-year-old Japanese midfielder Yudai Imura, with nine goals. Imura joined the Kickers last season after a short career in his native Japan. Richmond is coached by Leigh Cowlishaw, who played his entire career with the Kickers and was the first player to have his number retired in team history.

Tonight's game against Richmond is the first of a home and away series between the two teams, as OCB will travel to Richmond on Saturday to meet the Kickers for the second straight game. Tonight's game will be the first meeting of the season between the two Eastern Conference foes.

Last Week's Lineups

OCB: Ridgers; Hayden, Garcia, Nitti, Turner; Mendoza, Neal, Ribeiro, Da Silva, Heath, Cox

Richmond: Dykstra; Troyer, Yomby, Roberts, Mishu; Owusu, Asante, Aguilar, Jane, Imura; Grant

Keys to Victory

  • Time travel?: Remember in the second Austin Powers movie when Fat Bastard stole Austin Powers' mojo, and there was a whole time-machine, space-time continuum plot? If you can compare USL soccer teams to late 90s SNL-derived comedies, this particular comparison is pretty accurate. After riding high following a shock road win over Louisville and a win over Toronto FC II, the wheels have fallen off of the young Lion wagon. Can Anthony Pulis inject some confidence (or mojo) back into his team?
  • Defensive Woes: Taking the New York scoreline with a grain of salt was advisable considering the two red card circumstances surrounding the loss, but the Charlotte loss was another story. Getting dominated by a team that currently sits tied with Richmond in the standings isn't a recipe for a competitive outlook when you play Richmond less than a week later. Can OCB stop letting in goals? Will there be a lineup change to the back four? (Kyle Callan-McFadden and Conor Donovan should return from red card suspensions.)
  • Bethlehem Struggles: A silver lining over that two-game road shellacking for OCB was that the team's primary competition for the final playoff position has also been struggling of late. The Philadelphia Union affiliate has gone without a win in five games, and find themselves five points behind OCB. With seven games to go in the season, the final playoff spot may be determined by an OCB-Bethlehem meeting scheduled for the last game of the season.

How to Watch

As usual, you can catch the game on the official USL YouTube page or at orlandocitysc.com/live. Be sure to tune in at 7:30 p.m. tonight. You can also follow along on our TML Twitter feed and we'll have a full recap after the match.