Orlando City B played a bit better in the team’s second game of the season, but conceded twice after halftime to fall, 3-1, in the home opener at Orlando City Stadium. The visitors snapped a 1-1 halftime deadlock after the break to spoil the party for a team record home crowd of 2,741.
The hosts fell behind early but fought back and caught a break with a Louisville City own-goal to equalize by halftime. But George Davis IV and Luke Spencer found the net in the 57th and 76th minute, respectively, to capture all the points.
A week after getting out-shot 21-3 (5-1 on target) at Tampa Bay, OCB (0-2-0, 0 points) did somewhat better, but still got out-fired 17-10 (8-2 on target) by Louisville (1-0-1, 4 points), the USL’s Eastern Conference runner-up the last two seasons.
Head Coach Anthony Pulis said he was disappointed with the result and the performance, citing defensive passivity.
“I thought defensively we were what I would call too much on the back foot tonight,” Pulis said after the game. “We talk a lot about being on the front foot defensively and trying to get after teams. That wasn’t the case tonight, unfortunately. I don’t think you can defend the way we defended tonight and expect to win football matches at any level, to be honest. That’s something that we’re obviously going to have to address.”
“We have to improve on the teamwork, keeping the ball, and just going forward more,” Pierre Da Silva said of his team’s performance.
Pulis’ side had an almost entirely different look for this match than in Saturday’s opener at Tampa Bay. Earl Edwards Jr., started again in goal and Kevin Alston and Conor Donovan got the nod on the back line next to first-time OCB starters Zach Carroll and Leo Pereira – the latter getting game action just days after arriving in Central Florida on loan from Atletico Paranaense. Lewis Neal and Da Silva returned to the left side of the midfield from Saturday’s squad, alongside Ryley Kraft and Austin Martz. Michael Cox got his second start up top in as many games next to Ben Polk.
“Every week we have a new team – new players come in and out,” Da Silva said. “We just have to get used to it but it’s not an excuse.”
OCB and Louisville City traded probes early in the game with Brian Ownby from the visitors creating the most havoc running down the left side. Ownby’s first shot came three minutes in and was a harbinger of a long half for the OCB defense trying to mark him. Four minutes later Ownby’s cross led to the game’s first corner and the first good scoring chance. The ensuing corner fell for Tarek Morad, who had a free header but Edwards was there with a diving one-handed parry to keep the game scoreless in the eighth minute.
Three minutes later the visitors opened the scoring. Austin Martz lost the ball in his own half and it ended up on the foot of Cameron Lancaster above the center of the box. He turned and blasted a laser that Edwards could do nothing about, giving Louisville a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
The goal spurred the visitors on, as LCFC earned a corner in the next minute and Sean Totsch had a free header that missed the frame.
Polk finally got OCB a shot in the 19th minute but it was blocked. A minute later, newcomer Pereira tried his luck from long distance but he didn’t get all of the ball and it trickled wide.
Ownby forced another diving save from Edwards in the 26th and Conor Donovan beat the onrushing Louisville attackers to the ball to clear it. Two minutes later, goal scorer Lancaster subbed off for Luke Spencer in what must have been an injury-prompted move.
Cox finally got into a good scoring position in the 32nd down the left side of the LCFC box, but his shot drifted wide of the far post.
Edwards stopped George Davis’ try in the 34th and off the rebound another free Louisville header was sent high. Five minutes later, Ownby missed just wide with a drive from the top of the box. In the 41st, Spencer took a shot but Edwards saved comfortably.
A minute later, disaster struck for the visitors. Martz got forward down the right channel and launched a dangerous cross into the box. Goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski came off his line to collect but Morad deflected the ball into his own net with a poor touch, leveling the game.
Spencer blasted one over the bar three minutes after the own-goal as Louisville pushed to regain the lead with the last good chance of the first half. LCFC held an advantage in possession (52.6%-47.4%) at the break, out-shooting OCB, 10-4 (5-0 on target).
OCB actually came out brighter after halftime, able to build up more play in the midfield and the attacking third. Pulis subbed Dikwa Albert on for Polk after the first 45 minutes and he was able to help the attack with his movement and speed.
“I thought we had some spells of OK possession, probably from about minute 55,” Pulis said. “We controlled the possession and we created a few chances. Pierre’s obviously put some decent balls in the box and we nearly end up getting on the end of a couple of them. I thought we had some spells of OK possession, probably from about minute 55. We controlled the possession and we created a few chances. Pierre’s obviously put some decent balls in the box and we nearly end up getting on the end of a couple of them.”
However, Spencer fashioned the first chance of the second half, forcing an Edwards save just four minutes in. Two minutes later, Pereira blasted a rocket that sailed high from about 30 yards out. OCB got a little bit unlucky to fall behind just moments later.
In the 57th minute, Louisville got into Orlando’s box and Zach Carroll came across to try to block the ball. Unfortunately for the OCB center back, the ball deflected off of him and fell perfectly for Davis, who buried his shot between Edwards’ legs.
“To get out of the half 1-1, we were still in good position to come back out in the second half,” Martz said. “And I thought at the start we jumped on them and got a couple chances and definitely could have gotten a second goal but unfortunately we weren’t able to close out, and they got two, and our heads kind of went down. We tried to fight back for five or 10 minutes, and they got their third and I think we were a little deflated after that.”
OCB nearly pulled level again just four minutes after Louisville went ahead. Da Silva served in a wicked cross that Albert got his head to but he directed his shot right at Dobrowolski, who made the save. In the 66th, a bit of OCB pressure led to a chance from atop the box for Lewis Neal, but he fizzed his shot about 10 feet wide of the right post. As OCB pressed, Da Silva got in a cross for Cox in the 67th minute but the ball was slightly behind the striker, who spun and flicked it on toward goal but again the shot was right at the keeper.
Louisville nearly put it away in the 70th minute when Neal coughed up the ball in his own half but Spencer blasted a shot just wide. Moments later, at 74’, the Lions missed a golden opportunity as Martz missed the net from close range but the play was ruled offside anyway as Albert had made a play for the ball from a position beyond the defense. It was costly, as Spencer scored the insurance goal in the 76th minute, making a run between the center backs onto a perfectly placed ball. Edwards tried to make himself big but Spencer nutmegged him for the insurance tally.
Late substitutes Danny Deakin and Joe Gallardo brought some attacking flair to the game but OCB couldn’t pull one back. Deakin fired wide in the 87th and nearly had his first pro goal in the 90th but Dobrowolski made a diving save on the last gasp effort.
“I think we came out a little slow in the first half,” Martz said. “Playing in a new stadium the occasion was big. The excitement’s big. I thought we might have been a bit distracted by that.”
OCB will be back in action Tuesday, April 4, hosting Toronto FC II at Orlando City Stadium. The young Lions will hope for more improvement and a better result after playing two of the more talented rosters in the Eastern Conference.
“On the whole it was a disappointing evening but we have no time to sort of sulk,” said Pulis. “We have to dust ourselves off and get back in the morning and prepare for another game on Tuesday, because they’re coming thick and fast for us at the moment.”
It wasn’t the result OCB wanted, but we’ll always have this Pierre Da Silva move.