With five games to go in their inaugural USL regular season, the young Lions of Orlando City B are still clinging to the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, five points clear of both Bethlehem Steel FC and Harrisburg City Islanders for eighth place.
Tonight, OCB (8-9-8, 32 points) will return home for the final time in 2016 to take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (5-15-5, 20 points) in a game that could put the young Lions three points closer to sewing up a postseason berth once and for all.
Anthony Pulis’ team remains five points clear of Bethlehem and Harrisburg despite a recent four-game winless streak, including a 1-0 loss on the road to a red-hot Richmond Kickers squad last week. The third-place Kickers scored in the 77th minute to keep all three points at home in a game that had few clear-cut chances. During this four-game winless streak, OCB has lost three games and has been outscored 11-2. The Lions haven’t won since a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC II on Aug. 6.
Should the young Lions need a salve to their woes, they may not need to look farther than tonight’s opponents. Pittsburgh enters the Titan Soccer Complex as the co-owners of last place in the Eastern Conference, a position the Riverhounds share with FC Montreal. Starting off with just two wins in their first 18 games, the Riverhounds’ fate has long been sealed, but you can bet Dave Brandt’s squad would love to play spoiler.
OCB and Pittsburgh have met once already this season, with the young Lions taking away their first-ever win on the road, 2-1, at Highmark Stadium back on April 22.
Last Week’s Lineups
OCB: Ridgers; Ramos, McFadden, Nitti, Hayden; Neal, Ribeiro, Mendoza, Laryea, Da Silva*; Cox
Pittsburgh: Steffen; Hollingsworth, Hunt, Campbell, Green; Earls, Moloto, Kerr, Hertzog, Russell; Thompson
*Currently on international duty with the U.S. U-19 National Team.
Keys to Victory
Beat the Teams You Should: Pittsburgh is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference and is only two points clear of last place in the whole league, meaning that OCB is clearly the better team. Winning games you are expected to is often the difference between making the playoffs and not, so as easy as this game should be, it also very important. Expect the young Lions to come out focused.
- Home Field Advantage: OCB is nine points back of Rochester, so it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that the Lions would be able to move up to a seventh seed and potentially host a playoff game should some serious upsets occur in the postseason. That means that tonight’s game will be the last one at home in 2016 for OCB, so the young Lions will need to milk the advantage of playing on familiar turf one last time.
- Watch the Scoreboard: Remarkably, OCB has remained in eighth place despite not winning in four, and remains five points clear of its closest competition. To boot, OCB has games in hand on both Harrisburg and Bethlehem, who just played each other to a 2-2 tie. Bethlehem hosts the first-place New York Red Bulls II tomorrow, while Harrisburg is off until Wednesday when the Islanders too host the Baby Bulls.
How to Watch
If you aren’t making the trip to Melbourne to see OCB in person one last time, you can catch the game, as usual, 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.