It was a tough trip to the Carolinas for Orlando City B, as it fell to the Wilmington Hammerheads, 3-0. Despite the loss, OCB remains in the eighth and final playoff spot in the USL's Eastern Conference, but Wilmington moves to within two points of the Lions.
OCB went into the game without two key players, as midfielder Pierre Da Silva was in Serbia with the U.S. U-19 national team and captain Lewis Neal was absent after suffering a calf injury over the weekend.
With a small and quiet crowd on hand at Legion Stadium, the first half was an offensive struggle. Wilmington nearly opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Matthew Barnes-Homer sent a ball to the top of the box where Liam Miller was waiting. Miller's shot was deflected and the ball bounced around before going out for a Wilmington corner kick.
The home side nearly scored again in the 27th minute. This time it was Jeff Michaud sending the ball into the box. But, despite several players making runs into the area, no Hammerheads were able to find the end of it and the ball ran over the far sideline for an OCB throw in.
The best chance for OCB came in the 39th minute, when Tyler Turner made a nice run into the middle before being dragged down by Zev Taublieb, giving the Lions a free kick just outside the box. Craig Nitti stepped up to take the kick and drilled it into the wall. The deflection fell to Devron Garcia, who sent it well high of the goal, squandering OCB's best chance of the half.
The second half started badly and got worse for the visitors. It started in the 48th minute, when Barnes-Homer laid the ball off for the waiting Michaud, who wrapped the shot around Mark Ridgers and into the OCB net. Despite poor defending, OCB was able to keep the Hammerheads at bay for the next 20 minutes. But then the home team struck again.
In the 71st minute, Jermie Lynch received the ball in the box with space. Sensing the danger, Kyle McFadden slid in, but a high cleat caught Lynch, who quickly went down. Referee Gustavo Solorio immediately pointed to the spot, giving Wilmington the penalty. Bruno Perone stepped up and, sending Ridgers the wrong way, slid the ball into the left side of the net, doubling the Wilmington lead.
Perone nearly had his second and Wilmington's third in the 77th minute, when he attacked a cross into the box. Meeting the ball in the air, Perone headed it down but the ball bounced hard off the turf and sailed over the bar for an OCB goal kick.
Two minutes later, Perone did strike. Receiving the ball on the right, Liam Miller sent a nice bending ball toward the back post. Running onto it was Perone who lifted his left leg and touched the ball back across goal. With Ridgers diving the wrong way, the ball bounced into the right side of the net, increasing the Wilmington lead to three.
The loss keeps OCB in the eighth and final spot in the USL's Eastern Conference but makes its road much more difficult. Having played the same amount of games, Wilmington is now just two points behind the Lions for that final playoff spot. However, two of Wilmington's final three games are at home while OCB finishes its season on the road.
OCB will continue its four-game, season-ending road trip Sunday night when the young Lions head up north to face Toronto FC II.
Starting XI: Ridgers; Hayden, Nitti, McFadden, Donovan; Mendoza, Matarazzo (D. Garcia, 24'), Ribeiro (c), Turner (A. Garcia, 83'), Laryea (Smith, 73'); Cox
Unused Subs: Fenlason
Goals: WIL - Michaud (48'), Perone (71', 79')
Yellow Cards: WIL - Taublieb (45')