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Orlando City B vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies: Final Score 2-0 As OCB Is Eliminated From Playoff Contention

The young Lions end their second season with a loss in the I-4 Derby.

Deon Cooper, The Mane Land

With the playoffs on the line, Orlando City B (10-10-12, 42 points) needed to get a win to have a chance to make the playoffs. Early on it looked like the young Lions would be able to stay alive another day, but the Tampa Bay Rowdies (14-7-11, 53 points) came out victorious on a pair of second-half goals. OCB dropped its season finale, 2-0, in front of 1,185 fans in Orlando City Stadium.

“Tonight, we really struggled to get any rhythm going forward in attack,” said Lewis Neal. “I hate to say it, but we didn’t deserve to win tonight. That’s my opinion with the poor performance that we put in tonight.”

Pulis, on the other hand, was visibly upset after the match and said from the moment that he sat down that he does not want to talk about tonight’s game. Instead, Pulis focused on the season as a whole.

After OCB’s 6-5 loss a week ago, Head Coach Anthony Pulis made four changes. Earl Edwards Jr. and Richie Laryea both were not in the starting XI, with Laryea not in the 18 at all. Expect to see them both in the 18 for Orlando’s City’s final home game this Sunday. PC also was not part of the 18, and instead Kevin Alston was in at left back. Hadji Barry and Michael Cox combined for a goal and an assist on Saturday, and led the attack tonight again.

Needing the three points, the young Lions came out of the gates flying. Barry had the ball in the box in the second minute, juked the first defender, looked to shoot, but the second defender was there to stop the attack. Cox had an opportunity seconds later, but shot right at goalkeeper Matt Pickens from about 30 yards out instead of passing to Jordan Schweitzer, who was wide open to Cox’s right.

Orlando’s first big opportunity came in the 11th minute. On a 2-v-1, Barry made a move, freed himself and opened up space for a shot. Pickens made the diving save but the rebound was just inches beyond any OCB player.

Seven minutes later, Schweitzer made a nice run to get into shooting position. Cox gave him the ball but Schweitzer’s shot went harmlessly wide.

Tampa finally settled into the match around the 20-minute mark, and this led to numerous opportunities to break the 0-0 deadlock.

First, in the 18th minute, Georgi Hristov took a shot that went just over the bar. In the 23rd minute, Timbo gave up a free kick 20 yards out on a bit of an iffy call. Marcel Schäfer’s shot forced Fenlason into making a low, diving save.

Seven minutes later, Alston’s poor attempt at a clearance led to Walter Restrepo putting a low cross in that skidded across the face of the goal. Luckily for the young Lions, the Rowdies’ forwards could not get on the end of what would have been a tap in. Schäfer should have put the visitors ahead, this time in the 34th minute, but his shot hit the crossbar instead.

The half ended as it started, 0-0. Both Orlando and Tampa had opportunities but the defense for both teams held strong. The Rowdies were slightly ahead on possession (56%-44%), shots (5-3, although OCB had more on goal, 2-1), and passes (253-202).

Starting the second half, Orlando was back on the front foot. OCB pushed players forward, trying to get the much-needed go-ahead goal, but every attack faltered in the final third. Schweitzer, recently back from his stint with the Canadian National Team, made way for Austin Martz in the 55th minute. The game was back and forth and there were not many opportunities for either team. This led Pulis to make his second change of the night, bringing off OCB leading goal scorer Barry for Danny Deakin.

“I don’t think Hadji [Barry] had his best game,” said Pulis. “We obviously went with a starting shape and it wasn’t quite working. I still thought we were dangerous and I thought we did well up until the final third. Just kinda lacked that little bit of quality that we needed in and around the box.”

OCB’s first big chance of the second half came in the 70th minute. Deakin gave a good long ball to Cox, who put his cross on a platter for Martz. Martz nearly missed the ball entirely and the ball softly floated harmlessly wide.

OCB’s playoff hopes ended in the 75th minute, when Tampa scored the opener. Schäfer put a perfect cross in off a corner, and Hristov just had to redirect the header. Lewis Neal was on the back post, but could not jump high enough to keep it out.

After the goal, Pulis made some changes, bringing on Ben Polk for Alston and moved to a three-back formation. The Rowdies adjusted to this by going more defensive and playing long balls over the top.

As the young Lions were throwing players forward, the Rowdies got a consolation goal in stoppage time. Sebastian Guenzatti picked up a loose ball off Zach Ellis-Hayden’s failed back pass, beat Fenlason one-on-one, and then passed the ball into the empty net to kill off any chance of a comeback.

It was a good season for the young Lions, but four losses in their last six matches kept OCB from reaching playoffs in its second season. OCB will finish the season in ninth place in the USL’s Eastern Conference.

After the game Pulis, Neal, and Schweitzer were all visibly upset about the loss and the season ending. They all did not want to focus on the result, but the season as a whole and what lays ahead next season.

“I want to talk about how proud I am of the players,” said Pulis. “The work that they put in on a daily basis has been absolutely phenomenal. The attitude that they show in training and in games, the way they are around the facility, the way they are on the road. It is very difficult for me to put into words how proud I am to have led them.”

“I go back to the first game at Tampa, and how we performed in that to how we’ve come on since then,” Neal added. “Not just as a team, but individually as players, collectively as a group, I feel like we’ve come a long way. I know this team is a development team and I certainly feel like there has been strides that have been made with a lot of our individuals and, obviously, as a team.”

Schweitzer ended by saying, “If the same staff is here and I think a lot of the guys are still here, you’re going to see a lot of improvement [next season]. Hearing conversations from guys last year, just the steps that this group has made from everyone has been good. If a lot of people are on board and if the same staff is here I expect to see even better results next year.”

Starting XI: Jake Fenlason; Zach Ellis-Hayden, Zach Carroll, Fernando Timbo, Kevin Alston (Ben Polk — 78’); Lewis Neal, Tony Rocha, Jordan Schweitzer (Austin Martz — 55’), Pierre Da Silva; Michael Cox, Hadji Barry (Danny Deakin — 66th).

Unused Subs: Earl Edwards Jr., Paul Clowes, Conor Donovan, Joe Gallardo.

Goals: OCB — None. TBR — Hristov (75’, Guenzatti, 93’).

Yellows: OCB — Da Silva ( 76’); TBR — Vingaard (38’), Portillos (51’), Gorskie (80’).