Well, if you're Anthony Pulis and your team is at the end of its season, fighting for its playoff life, that was just about the worst result you could have wanted on Wednesday. Orlando City B dropped a 3-0 game to the Wilmington Hammerheads midweek, which was doubly painful; not only did it represent a missed opportunity to take a step towards sealing up a postseason berth, it also gave a lift to the Lions' closest competition, the Hammerheads, who now sit just two points behind for the eighth and final playoff place in the USL Eastern Conference.
Those are the circumstances facing Pulis' squad tonight when the Lions play the second of a four-game road trip to close out this inaugural campaign for OCB (8-11-8, 32 points) on the road against Toronto FC II (6-17-5, 23 points). A win guarantees OCB a playoff place for at least another week. A draw guarantees a tie for that position, while a loss could see OCB drop out of playoff places should Wilmington win tomorrow at home against FC Cincinnati.
The stakes are clear for the young Lions for tonight's game, which fortunately pits them against a TFCII team that is tied for last place in the Eastern Conference and second to last in the entire league. The two teams last met over a month ago in a 2-1 win at home in Melbourne for OCB, which was the young Lions' most recent victory of the season. Since that win, OCB has gone winless in six games, which includes just one tie. Coincidentally, the loss to OCB was the beginning of a five-game losing streak which the Toronto reserve squad currently is riding.
Last Week's Lineups
OCB: Ridgers; Hayden, Nitti, McFadden, Donovan; Mendoza, Matarazzo, Ribeiro, Turner, Laryea; Cox
TFCII: Irwin; Charpie, Maletic, Simonin, Osorio; Bouchard, James, Babouli; Edwards, John, Hamilton
Keys to Victory
- Don't Lose Hope: Six games without a win is a difficult stretch to go through at any time, but especially when you're in the dead heat of a battle to make the playoffs. Luckily for OCB, it somehow is still postseason bound despite a month of poor play and negative results. If Pulis can keep his charges optimistic and confident in light of those facts, they should be able to take care of business.
- Feel at Home on the Road: OCB has struggled away from home and hasn't won outside of Melbourne in over three months, since June 26. If OCB plans to extend its season, the young Lions will need to learn to win in hostile territory, as they will not play at home for the rest of the season.
- Win Against Teams Below You: This was easier said than done against Wilmington midweek, but tonight's opponents figure to be less formidable. That said, it will take a full-strength, focused effort form OCB to take away all three points in a game which you'd expect them to do so. If OCB can win the games it should, the playoffs will await the team.