In the second installment of this year’s I-4 Derby, the Tampa Bay Rowdies (7-5-7, 28 points) scored early and held on tight for the remainder of the game. However, a 96th-minute spot kick from Danny Deakin gave the young Lions the equalizer, as the Orlando City B (5-6-6, 22 points) home winless streak has now reached eight games in front of 1,504 fans at the Orlando City Stadium.
“I’m obviously proud of the players for how they kept going and didn’t give in,” OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis said after the game. “Having said that, I’m really disappointed. I felt it was a game there for the taking. I felt like it was another two points dropped.”
Orlando City Soccer Club leads the I-4 Derby with six wins out of eight matches — all wins coming from the senior team. In the first game against OCB, the Rowdies won 1-0 off a Georgi Hristov penalty in the season home this year. The all-time record now is 6-1-1 in favor of the Lions.
The young Lions came out with the same starting XI from a week ago, except an injured Rafael Ramos was replaced with Zach Ellis-Hayden.
Tampa Bay had exactly the same starting XI from its last match, a 2-0 victory against FC Cincinnati. Two former Orlando City players were a part of the visiting team. Fan favorite Luke Boden was on the bench to start and Martin Paterson started up top.
While Pato was the lone goal scorer for the visitors, Boden never got the chance to go up against his old team.
“I would have loved for [Boden] to have played,” Lewis Neal said. “I’m sure he would’ve had a point to prove coming back here. Not only that, but he’s not had a chance to play in the new stadium. I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t get to play.”
It was clear from the opening whistle that both teams came ready to play, and wanted to win the rivalry. Some quick back-and-forth action led to a corner kick for the visitors in the second minute. There was some confusion with the man marking for the young Lions, but Earl Edwards Jr. was not troubled by the header from Keith Savage. Richie Laryea tried to feed Hadji Barry through the defense two minutes later, but Tamika Mkandawire defended the through ball with ease.
OCB followed that up with two big chances. Barry first played the ball across the box to Lewis Neal, but Neal’s shot went inches wide. Barry and Laryea then combined to get the UCF product alone in the box, but too many touches led to Tampa defending it out for a corner. To no surprise, OCB’s ensuing short corner did not lead to anything.
In the 21st minute, Martin Paterson put the visitors ahead. Seb Hines made two key defensive stops, but unfortunately that put him out of position. Joe Cole took control of Hines’ second block, and found Paterson inside the 18. The former Lion’s powerful left-footed crack went into the far side netting, and Edwards could not keep it out.
“It was a compliment to us that [Tampa] had to change shape,” said Pulis. “They made a good decision [in the 20th minute] to flip the shape, and then they score and it kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
OCB nearly came right back. Austin Martz displayed some nifty footwork, but his cross into the box was blocked. Luckily it fell right to the feet of Tony Rocha. Rocha chested it down, and took a left footed shot from distance but it went harmlessly wide.
For the last 10 minutes of the first half, the young Lions attempted to hold the ball and go through middle of the field. They had a few long spells of possession, but the movement was horizontal and the attacking players were stagnant as the Rowdies put 11 men behind the ball. There looked to be tired legs from both teams, and the half ended with visitors up, 1-0.
This was yet another game where OCB led most of the statistics, but could not pull ahead at the half. The young Lions held 58% possession, out-shot the Rowdies, 5-2, and made almost 100 more passes then the visitors, but Tampa was in control of the match.
“Obviously, the Rowdies are very experienced,” said Neal. “They come in here to do a job, they obviously watched the video of how we play at home, and how we like to play through the third of midfield and try to find those pockets. They clogged it up and made it difficult for us.”
The second half started out much like the first ended. Tampa was fine just sitting back and defending the lead, and OCB held possession but struggled to find a hole in the defense. With nothing much going on, Pulis decided to make a double substitution in the 64th minute. Albert Dikwa and Ben Polk came on for Rocha and Martz, and the young Lions started to push players forward in search of the equalizer.
“Although we had possession we weren’t penetrating enough,” said Pulis. “It was always planned that Tony Rocha would come out at 60, as he’s still making his way back from the hamstring injury. And then I just felt like putting Dikwa out there would give us a little bit extra pace, a little bit explosiveness that he adds. Ben Polk has been training really, really well and deserves the opportunity.”
Barry should have scored his fourth goal of the year in the 73rd minute. After a horrendous turnover from Rowdies ‘keeper Matt Pickens, Barry was all alone in the 18-yard box. Barry tried some jukes, and had Laryea and Polk making runs in the box also. The forward took way too many touches, though, and failed to get his shot on target.
Three minutes later, Barry almost made up for his earlier mistake. With three defenders on him, he put the perfect ball into the box to Neal. The captain struck the ball on the volley, but Mkandawire blocked it out for the corner.
OCB started throwing everyone forward but the kitchen sink, but the Rowdies’ back line would not break. With the game set to be over the fourth official raised the board and showed an additional seven minutes of stoppage time and the home team regained some more energy.
In the 95th minute of the game, it was once again Laryea that saved the young Lions. The Canadian made an overlapping run, and Deakin fed him the ball. Laryea cut inside the box and drew a foul for a penalty kick. Deakin took the spot kick, and had Pickens diving the wrong way to score his first professional goal.
“I’m just happy to get that first goal out of the way,” Deakin said. “I was going on a bit of a drought. Obviously coming in at that time, just trying to help the team as much as possible, and when the chance came for the penalty I just thought, ‘I’m burying this.’ So you know, happily it went in.”
Tampa nearly spoiled things late with a free kick a minute later from the right side. The ball was whipped in but flicked off a Rowdies player, right onto the foot of an offside player, whose shot was saved by Edwards. The rebound was swept in but the flag had already gone up. Seconds later, the full time whistle blew.
The young Lions spent almost the entire second half with the ball, and finished the game with 62% possession and nine shots but missed the net eight times. The Rowdies only made 129 passes in the final 45 minutes, compared to OCB’s 256. However, the tight and compact Tampa defense led to the majority of OCB ball movement starting from the back and going left to right, instead of vertical.
“I thought we were more than worthy of the point,” said Neal. “I would have been really disappointed if we came away with a 1-0 loss tonight. I thought with the amount of possession that we had, we didn’t do enough with it. We didn’t move the ball quick enough, at times. But if you look back to the first game of the season, how far we’ve come from that game to this game is massive.”
OCB gets a week off, and returns to action on Saturday, July 29 when the Lions visit the Charleston Battery at MUSC Health Stadium at 7 p.m.
Starting XI: Earl Edwards Jr.; Fernando Timbó, Léo Pereira, Seb Hines, Zachary Ellis-Hayden; Lewis Neal (Danny Deakin - 82’), Tony Rocha (Albert Dikwa - 64’), Paul Clowes, Austin Martz (Ben Polk - 64’) ; Richie Laryea, Hadji Barry.
Unused Subs: Jake Fenlason, Conor Donovan, Jordan Schweitzer, Scott Thomsen.
Goals: ORL — Deakin (96’); TBR — Martin Paterson (21’).
Yellow Cards: ORL — Léo Pereira (74’), Paul Clowes (92’), Richie Laryea (96’); TBR — Darnell King (43’), Alex Morrell (45’).