Orlando City B came into the tonight's game with an opportunity to put a strangle hold on the eighth and final playoff spot for the USL's Eastern Conference. However, a second half strike from Toronto FC II's Ricardo John lifted the home side to a 2-1 win and robbed OCB from pulling away from the Wilmington Hammerheads.
OCB started early with a goal in the fifth minute. As Zach Hayden threw the ball in, striker Michael Cox shielded off the two Toronto defenders to get himself free on goal. As Toronto goalkeeper Quillan Roberts cut down his angle, Cox curled the ball toward goal. The ball crashed off the inside of the post and bounced in, giving the Lions a 1-0 lead.
The OCB goal seemed to give Toronto some energy as the Reds were able to create some opportunities in the following minutes. Their closest opportunity came in the 31st minute, when John took a shot from just outside the box that went whizzing over the bar.
Toronto found its equalizer in the 28th minute. Liam Fraser sent a bending ball in from the right which found the foot of Shaan Hundal in front of goal. The initial shot was saved by a diving Mark Ridgers but the rebound went right back to Hundal, who tapped in to level the score at 1-1.
In the 60th minute, OCB nearly took the lead when Pierre Da Silva found some space in the box and fired a shot from just to the left of goal, but the ball sailed high and wide. On the other side, Hundal and Malik Johnson combined for another chance. Hundal sent Johnson in on goal to Ridgers' right but the shot hit side netting, keeping the score 1-1.
In the 71st minute, Toronto gave the home side its first lead of the night. Luca Uccello sent the ball toward the back post, where Raheem Edwards found himself fighting with Tyler Turner and Kyle McFadden for the ball. After winning it amongst the two Lions, he lifted it into the six, where John attacked the ball, heading it past Ridgers to give the Reds a 2-1 lead.
The Lions nearly found that equalizer in the 83rd minute. First Da Silva sent in a curling corner kick which was headed toward the back corner of the goal, but Roberts made a one-handed save, falling backwards into the goal. Shortly after, Da Silva found the ball at his foot again, just inside the box, and fired on goal. But Roberts was up to the challenge again, making a diving save to his right.
As the game drew to a close, OCB threw big numbers forward as the Lions continued to look for an equalizer. But they were unable to put one more past Roberts and Toronto FC II held off the attack for a 2-1 victory.
A positive from the game is the return of Pedro Ribeiro. After being out since May following back surgery, Ribeiro entered the game in the 61st minute, replacing Devron Garcia. It's another big step for Ribeiro as he looks to get back to the first team.
The loss moves OCB's winless streak to seven, dating back to Aug. 6, when the Lions scored in the third minute of injury time to defeat Toronto FC II, 2-1. Despite the loss, both City Islanders and Bethlethem Steel are now a mere one point from being eliminated from playoff contention, leaving the Wilmington Hammerheads as the only real contender for that final playoff spot. Wilmington remains two points back. Both OCB and Wilmington have two games remaining in the regular season.
The loss puts OCB at 32 points through its first 28 games. Next, the Lions will travel to Southwest Ohio to take on FC Cincinnati next weekend and they end the season the following Sunday at Bethlethem Steel FC.
Starting XI: Ridgers; Turner, Nitti (Donovan), McFadden, Hayden; A. Garcia (Mendoza, 46'), A. Ribeiro (c), D. Garcia (P. Ribeiro, 61'), Da Silva; Barry (Smith, 47'), Cox
Unused Subs: Fenlason
Goals: OCB – Cox (5') TOR – Hundal (28'), John (71')
Yellow Cards: OCB – Turner (67'), Cox (76'), Ribeiro (84'), Hayden (90')