After tallying only a gifted own-goal through the first two matches of the season, Orlando City B scored three times en route to a 3-1 win over Toronto FC II in front of an announced crowd of 1,098 at Orlando City Stadium. It was the young Lions’ first win of the 2017 USL season and also their first ever in Orlando City Stadium.
Paul Clowes, Hadji Barry, and Lewis Neal provided the offense for OCB, to offset a Malik Johnson tally. Orlando (1-2-0, 3 points) did it the hard way, having to defend with only 10 men for the game’s final 20 minutes to defeat the visiting Reds (1-2-0, 3 points).
Anthony Pulis started a side with relatively few changes from Thursday’s loss against Louisville City, going with the following lineup (4-4-2): Earl Edwards Jr.; PC, Leo Pereira, Zach Carroll, Kevin Alston; Pierre Da Silva, Lewis Neal, Austin Martz, Paul Clowes; Richie Laryea; Hadji Barry. That’s four player changes and a move for Pereira from left back to center back.
Pulis left striker Michael Cox off the team sheet, leaving a bench of Jake Fenlason, Zach Hayden-Ellis, Conor Donovan, Ryley Kraft, Danny Deakin, Joe Gallardo, and Albert Dikwa.
Jason Bent lined up his Toronto II side like this (3-4-3): Angelo Cavalluzzo; , Oyvind Alseth, Mitchell Taintor, Brandon Onkony; Liam Fraser, Brian James, Ryan Telfer, Jordan McRary; Malik Johnson, Shaan Hundal, Ricardo John. His reserves were Brandon Aubrey, Brogan Engbers, Ben Spencer, Luca Uccello, Sergio Camargo, Anthony Osorio, and Tsubasa Endoh.
After a couple of games without many opportunities, it didn’t take long for OCB to generate a good scoring chance. Richie Laryea stung the palms of Toronto goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo to force a save just three minutes in. Pierre Da Silva started the play with a nice midfield tackle. The ensuing corner pinged around in the box but found its way under Cavalluzzo before a Lion could get on it.
In the 11th minute, PC took a nice overlapping run up the left flank and fizzed a cross into the box for Barry but it was deflected just enough by the defense to keep the striker off the ball. A minute later OCB worked a training ground corner, with Clowes taking the kick short to Da Silva, who back-heeled it to an onrushing Martz. His cross found Neal, who flicked it on target but a defender got a piece of it. In the 14th, Laryea missed just high on a try from about 25 yards out.
Toronto finally got its first shot attempt in the 15th minute but it was a weak roller from outside the box that Edwards easily handled.
Four minutes later, the Lions broke through. Off a corner kick, Da Silva’s back post drive went over everyone and was collected by Pereira, who had his shot blocked. It fell for Carroll, who sent it back into the box. As Cavalluzzo was catching it, Clowes got his head on it and sent it in for OCB’s first goal scored by a Lion in 2017. The Reds will no doubt feel hard done by referee Jonathan Weiner for not blowing the whistle but it was a bang-bang play and the Lions took the lead.
It was Clowes’ first ever professional goal.
“It was unbelievable to have gone from marketing the stadium about three years ago, to be able to score the first goal for OCB at the stadium is something I’ll always remember for sure,” said Clowes. “I didn’t think my first goa would be with my head but they all count the same no matter how they go in. I’m very proud to do that but most importantly that was what helped us get a win.”
After the opening goal, Toronto got on the front foot. In the 23rd minute, Edwards had to quickly scramble off his line to beat a Toronto attacker to the ball. A minute later, Ricardo John shot wide from the top of the box. In the 27th minute, Alseth tried a long-range effort but hit it well high. The Lions were definitely on their heels.
In the 28th minute, Hundal fizzed a dangerous cross into the box but it went through everyone. Two minutes later, Malik Johnson equalized. A ball deflected off a defender right onto Johnson’s foot and he fired home from the top of the box, giving Edwards no chance in the 30th minute.
The game was a bit more back-and-forth after the second goal. In the 34th, Da Silva sent in a tantalizing cross but none of his teammates could get to it. Three minutes later, Brian James sent a dangerous free kick over the bar. Barry nearly got a go-ahead goal in the 39th minute, dancing through several defenders in the box before having his shot blocked and Neal couldn’t put in the follow.
Two minutes later, Barry did score. Martz started the play in the midfield, finding Laryea, who made a strong run through the defense before laying off on the left for Da Silva. Pierre coolly found Barry near the back post for an easy score, restoring the Orlando lead.
“I’m glad to get the goal to help the team but that’s not the most important thing. We got the three points,” Barry said after the game.
“I was pleased with Hadji tonight,” Pulis said. “I thought he was a threat for their back three all night long and he probably should have had more goals. He got himself in some fantastic positions.”
The Reds threatened twice more before the halftime whistle, first on a bicycle kick by John that was hit straight at Edwards. The second was a dangerous free kick from the corner that forced an Edwards punch. But OCB held and took its advantage into halftime.
“I thought at times in the first half we played some really, really good football, especially on the counter attack,” Pulis said. “I thought we looked really dangerous. Hadji, Richie, Austin Martz, Pierre Da Silva looked really dangerous tonight. So I was pleased with that. We had to make some adjustments at halftime because I felt like we were a little bit too open on the counter attack. So we had to make a couple of tactical changes. And I thought we started the second half really well.”
Toronto had a slight edge in possession at the break (51.6%-48.4%) and the teams were even on shots, at 7-7 (3-3 on target).
The hosts wasted little time extending their lead in the second period. Just six minutes after the restart, Da Silva held off Alseth down the left side with a show of strength and got to the end line before squaring a ball back across the box for Neal, who roofed his shot into the top netting to make it 3-1.
Neal nearly earned a brace three minutes later, turning with a ball in the box and firing over the net.
In the 65th, Barry showed some sweet moves after Kevin Alston made a picture perfect sliding tackle to stop a good scoring chance. Barry nutmegged a defender and forced a two-handed diving save on a play that was deserving of a goal.
The game took a turn in the 69th minute when Da Silva was sent off after Weiner consulted with his assistant and judged reckless play after a hard challenge. He then gave a retaliation push after he was kicked twice by Jordan McCrary. As a result, Da Silva will miss this Saturday’s match against the Charlotte Independence. McCrary wasn’t punished.
“Really, really disappointed with it,” Pulis said of the red card. “That’s something we’re going to have to look at as a club to see if we review that and appeal it because it doesn’t look (like) a sending off to me.”
Danny Deakin replaced Laryea shortly thereafter and the Lions slid into a 4-4-1 to try to ride out the final 20 minutes. Barry was sacrificed for Dikwa in the 79th minute after some cramping issues on what was a good night for the first-team striker.
Toronto nearly pulled one back in the 80th minute when a back-post cross found Onkony’s head and popped over Edwards but was cleared by Pereira.
That was about as close as the visitors got, other than some crosses into the box that Edwards was able to punch away over the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time.
Pulis was delighted with the job his team did after going a man down. Toronto FC II was held to only two shots after halftime and only a half chance after getting a manpower advantage.
“After [Da Silva was sent off], we have no other choice, than to obviously sit in and be really disciplined and really diligent defensively and make it difficult for them to break us down. I thought we did a fantastic job,” he said. “The guys are absolutely shattered in there now. They’ve got nothing left. That’s what we expect. That’s how it should be every game. The discipline and the togetherness they showed in that last 20, 25 minutes, whatever it was – it felt like three hours for me – was excellent. Hopefully we can kick on from here, now.”
OCB will be back in action Saturday night at home against Charlotte at 7:30 p.m.