The home schedule has now ended for Orlando City B and the young Lions will finish their inaugural USL regular season with a four-game road trip. They continue to cling to that final playoff position, sitting five points ahead of the City Islanders, Bethlehem Steel, and Wilmington Hammerheads.
Tonight, OCB (8-10-8, 32 points) will kick off the final stretch with a midweek game against the Wilmington Hammerheads (6-11-9, 27 points), one of three teams that are chasing the Lions. It's a six-point game that could put the Lions further in the driver's seat for that eighth and final playoff spot. Or it could open the door for those teams trying to make up ground.
The Lions are coming off of a tough 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in their home season finale last weekend. Making matters worse, OCB will be playing without two of its top players in midfielders Pierre Da Silva and Harrison Heath. Da Silva is currently with the U.S. U-19 national team in Serbia for the Stevan Vilotic Tournament. Heath, a dependable first-team defensive midfielder who has been working up his fitness as he attempts to return from injury, is suspended for the game due to yellow card accumulation.
The opposition tonight, the Wilmington Hammerheads, come into this game struggling, having not won since July 9. Over their past ten games, they are 0-6-4 and have drawn their previous two games, 2-2. The two players the young Lions will need to look out for are striker Ashani Fairclough and midfielder Liam Miller. Both Fairclough and Miller have scored in each of the two meetings the two teams have had this season.
This will be the third meeting between OCB and the Hammerheads. They began the season against each other at Titan Soccer Complex in Melbourne where a late strike by Miller gave Wilmington the 2-1 win. Their second meeting came on July 24 in a whirlwind affair. Tony Rocha seemed to gather all three points for the Lions, giving them a 2-1 lead in the 82nd minute, but Miller equalized from the top of the box in injury time, allowing the visitors to steal a point. This will be the first time to two have faced off in Wilmington this season.
Last Week's Lineups
OCB: Ridgers; Donovan, McFadden, Nitti, Hayden; Heath*, Neal, Ribeiro, Laryea, Barry, Cox
Wilmington: Smits; Defregger, Mecham, Doue, Parratt; Miller, Taublieb, Martz, Michaud, Barnes-Homer; Parker
*Suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Keys to Victory
Finishing in the Final Third: While OCB had plenty of possession against Pittsburgh over the weekend, the Lions struggled to find the back of the net. The Lions will be looking to striker Michael Cox to be on his game tonight and convert the opportunities set up by the midfield.
Strong Back Line: OCB's back line has been very inconsistent this season. While some games goalkeeper Mark Ridgers seems to be on his own, others they're able to stymie the opposing attack. The team's success tonight will be largely based on how well that back four plays.
How to Watch
To catch tonight's game, tune into the official USL YouTube page or at orlandocitysc.com/live for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff. You can also follow along with our OCB writer as he live tweets the action. We'll have a full match recap after the game.