Orlando City B just missed out on a second straight USL playoff appearance, despite improving on the field and in the season’s final record. But our No. 8 moment of the 2017 season focuses on a stretch when the young Lions were unbeatable.
In June, OCB was coming off a pair of disappointing 1-0 losses in Canada at both Ottawa Fury and Toronto FC II. The most difficult game of the trip looked to be a visit to Capelli Sport Stadium in Rochester, NY, to take on the Rhinos. But the young Lions came away 1-0 winners thanks to a Fernando Timbo goal and superb defending by Anthony Pulis’ squad. We didn’t know it at the time, but that win was the start of something special.
A trio of home draws against FC Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and rival Tampa Bay Rowdies still didn’t hint at what would ultimately become a club record 12-game unbeaten streak. In fact, the young Lions drew their next three matches — at Charleston, home vs. Harrisburg, and at FC Cincinnati — to make it six consecutive ties and an unusual seven-game unbeaten run, albeit with a six-game winless run attached. The string of draws stretched through all of July and into mid-August.
Just when it seemed like the draws would continue forever, OCB won a hard-fought match at Richmond, 1-0, on Aug. 12. Hadji Barry provided all of the offense as the young Lions snapped the string of draws and turned it into an eight-game unbeaten run. The Lions weren’t done, winning at home against Ottawa Fury in their next outing by a 3-0 score line. Seb Hines opened the scoring, Barry added a brace, and Earl Edwards Jr. stopped a penalty to lead the young Lions to consecutive wins, continuing the league’s longest unbeaten run.
A successful road trip followed the home win over Ottawa. OCB went to went to Charlotte and left with a 1-1 draw against the Independence on Aug. 19. Barry’s penalty kick led OCB over then-Eastern Conference-leading Charlotte. Just seven days later, Louisville City stood atop the USL’s Eastern Conference when OCB traveled to Louisville Slugger Field for a pivotal match. The young Lions rode a Michael Cox brace and Timbo’s insurance goal to a 3-0 win at Louisville. OCB’s third win in four matches extended the unbeaten streak to 11 matches and the Lions climbed to sixth place in the conference race.
Another win seemed within reach on Aug. 31 when Bethlehem Steel visited Orlando City Stadium on Aug. 31 as the Eastern Conference race tightened up. A playoff spot was well within the young Lions’ grasp with a win and Pierre Da Silva’s 75th-minute goal appeared to have made that happen. But Marcus Epps’ equalizer in the 86th minute was a heartbreaking end to the final match in OCB’s 12-game run, giving the club a 1-1 home draw.
The young Lions finished the season on a 2-4-0 skid and two points behind the Steel for the final playoff berth, making Epps’ late strike a fatal blow in the end. Sure, there were still plenty of chances left for the Lions to pick up additional points, but that one goal stole two points from OCB and added a point to Bethlehem’s total.
The 4-0-8 run through the summer months certainly was fraught with too many draws, which ultimately hurt OCB in the playoff race, but considering that string of games included some of the club’s most difficult games — including at Rochester, Charleston, Cincinnati, Charlotte, and Louisville — it was an impressive run for Pulis and company and kept the team in the hunt for the postseason despite a slow start to the season, an ever-changing lineup, and the key loss of Richie Laryea to the first team.
The young Lions were unbeatable for nearly three months and it was fun to watch the USL side earn result after result. As such, it is worthy of inclusion in our ‘best of 2017’ list.
Come back through New Year's Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City's top 10 moments of 2017.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2017
10. Orlando City trounces New England Revolution, 6-1.
9. Orlando Pride clobbers Sky Blue FC, 5-0.