The 2017 USL season begins this weekend as Orlando City B looks to improve on its eighth-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2016. It was a decent performance last season that saw the club finish 9-8-13 and earn the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With the 2017 season on the horizon, lets take a look at some of the key matches for OCB on this year’s schedule.
Tampa Bay Rowdies — March 25
Of course, when it comes to rivalries, none will be bigger for OCB than the I-4 Derby. The fact that this rivalry kicks off the 2017 season gives it added importance. Tampa Bay joins the USL from the NASL and is looking to build momentum toward an MLS bid. The Rowdies will also be fielding some familiar faces, including long-time Orlando City left back Luke Boden and former Orlando City MLS striker Martin Paterson. The young Lions will want to grab those three points on the road to start the season off right.
Louisville City FC — March 30
Louisville and OCB played a total of three matches last season and the club from Kentucky took the season series two games to one. The former Orlando City USL affiliate defeated OCB in the third match of the season in 2016 and the match-up was one of three losses in OCB’s first five matches. A win against Louisville could help spark a solid start to the season.
New York Red Bulls II — April 14
The 2016 USL champions defeated OCB in the opening round of the playoffs and went on to claim the title. In their two regular season meetings, the first ended in a 2-2 draw, but the second was a 5-1 win for the Red Bulls. On another note, this match will be the first of a three-match road trip for OCB, a poor result here could affect the team in its remaining two.
FC Cincinnati — May 13
Cincinnati is one of the most intimidating places to play in the USL, as the club draws large crowds for its home matches. This is a club OCB lost to twice last season, including a 1-0 defeat in Cincinnati. Just a draw here would be a big result from this fixture.
Rochester Rhinos — June 23
OCB will bring a three-match road trip to a close when it faces the Rhinos in New York. The club was undefeated against the Rhinos in 2016 and a win would be a welcome result after facing Toronto FC II and the Ottawa Fury in the other two matches of the road trip. The Lions will be on short rest, as this will be the second match of the week for OCB.
Tampa Bay Rowdies — July 13
This will be the second of three meetings between the two Florida clubs. OCB will end a three-match home stand against the Rowdies and could clinch the regular season series between the two if it can come away with three points.
Charlotte Independence — Aug. 19
OCB defeated the Independence twice last season and outscored them 7-2 in the two club’s three meetings. This will be one of two key conference matches slated for the end of August, with Louisville on the horizon after this match, making this a key road game late in the season.
Richmond Kickers — Oct. 1
The finish to 2016 was a poor one. OCB lost four of its last five matches, which saw the club barely hang on for a playoff spot. Four of the last five were on the road, this season only two are. This makes the Oct. 1 match-up against the Kickers an important one, as the club tries to avoid a repeat of last year by finishing strong on the road.