Orlando City B might never score again.
The young Lions are left lamenting missed opportunities after out-playing the visiting City Islanders with both teams just a point below the playoff line. Scott Thomsen’s second-half miss in the 63rd minute from nine yards away with a gaping empty net was the team’s most glaring wasted opportunity for a team that failed to score for the third time in four games.
Thomsen later had a chance to redeem himself late in stoppage time when a ball fell perfectly for him in nearly the same spot but he hit his one-time shot right at the goalkeeper and OCB (5-6-9, 24 points) was left with its third 0-0 draw in four outings in front of 1,061 against the Harrisburg City Islanders (6-9-6, 24).
The young Lions are unbeaten in six games but have drawn the last five in a row and scored only three goals in that span — but only one goal in the last four outings. The young Lions have not scored since stoppage time against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on July 13.
“Frustrating night again,” Head Coach Anthony Pulis said. “I feel like that’s deja vu as — what’s that, the last probably four home games now — I’m probably going to say exactly the same thing, wher we’ve had the majority of the ball and some really good passages of play. Just the end product again, as you’ve seen. We’re creating the chances. We just can’t finish them off at the moment.”
With another game coming up on Saturday and Zach Ellis-Hayden out with a yellow card suspension, Anthony Pulis did a little bit of squad rotation, getting some first-team players involved. Earl Edwards Jr. took his usual spot in goal, with a back line of (L-R) PC, Leo Pereira, Zach Carroll, and Youmeni Jules. The midfield of the 4-4-2 consisted of (L-R) Ryley Kraft, Jordan Schweitzer, Scott Thomsen, and Pierre Da Silva — returning from a three-game suspension. Albert Dikwa and Michael Cox played on the attacking line up top.
Harrisburg countered with Brandon Miller in net behind a back four of (L-R) Abass Mohammed, Lee Nishanian, Tiago Calvano, and Shawn McLaws. Defensive midfielder Rasheed Olabiyi sat behind a line of four including (L-R) James Thomas, Paul Wilson, Danny DiPrima, and former OCB midfielder Jonathan Mendoza, with Ropapa Mensah as the lone striker at the top of the formation.
The visitors nearly got a gift four minutes into the match. Jules, playing for the suspended Ellis-Hayden, made a horrific pass into the middle of the pitch in his own third, straight to Wilson of the City Islanders. Wilson tried to chip Edwards but his shot stayed high and thumped off the crossbar.
Moments later, Michael Cox nearly got onto a long ball behind the defense but his touch was a bit heavy and he went down under contact but nothing was called. In the 10th minute, Mendoza stung a ball toward goal against his old team but found only the outside netting from the right side of the penalty area. A minute later, Schweitzer tried a shot from 35 yards out, trying to catch the keeper napping but his drive hit the Heineken sign at the bottom of the upper deck.
OCB had difficulty finding a way through Harrisburg’s midfield for the first 12 minutes or so against the City Islanders’ 4-1-4-1 formation. But then, the young Lions began to work the ball better around the outside, although the final entry ball was difficult to find.
Da Silva got down the left flank in the 12th minute and McLaws grabbed his shoulders and pulled him down, giving the Lions the first decent free kick of the game. But Pierre’s delivery was low and easily cut out. Two minutes later, Cox got into the left side of the box but opted to pass instead of shoot and his cross for Dikwa was easily intercepted. Just after that, Da Silva was clotheslined just above the box but it wasn’t called.
In the 16th minute, Da Silva sent in a corner kick cross that was headed straight for Pereira but Miller got a punch to it just before the Brazilian could nod it home. Ten minutes later, the Lions nearly struck after Cox earned a free kick near the touch line just about even with the top of the penalty area. Da Silva sent an in-swinger on goal that Miller got a hand on at the last second and knocked it off the crossbar. The ball cycled back in to the box but Pereira nodded over the bar.
A odd-man break developed for Orlando City B, putting five attackers up against only the two Harrisburg center backs in the 34th minute, but the Lions mucked it up as Cox passed for Kraft and his cross attempt was cut out by the defense.
The teams traded a couple of half-chances over the final 16 minutes of the opening period but nothing menacing and went to the break deadlocked at 0-0. OCB controlled 53.5% of the possession, and completed 85.2% of its passes compared to the City Islanders’ 80.8% with each team attempting three shots. None were on target. Apparently Da Silva’s set piece delivery was ruled a cross because it was certainly on goal.
The problem with OCB in the first half was simply not moving the ball more quickly and often playing backward just as attacking players were making runs. With this particular 11, however, it’s no surprise that the chemistry was a bit off, as the group featured a lot of rare starters.
Conor Donovan replaced PC at the half, as the left back did well in his rehab stint and Pereira moved out to fullback as Donovan slotted into the middle next to Carroll. The defense, regardless of who played on the back line, was outstanding all night, with the only threat from Harrisburg really coming on counter attacks due to sloppy giveaways in the offensive third by OCB.
Cox registered the game’s first shot on target in the 53rd minute but didn’t get much sting into his shot which was right at Miller. Two minutes later, Mensah did essentially the same thing for City Islanders. Dikwa fizzed a ball through the six-yard box at the 58-minute mark but it was inches away from Cox’s outstretched foot.
A minute later, Edwards made his best save of the night when he dove to his right to deny Wilson after an offensive turnover led to a break for the Islanders. Carroll nearly found a breakthrough on a set piece in the 60th minute as a ball fell for him in the box but he didn’t make good contact with all the traffic in the box and a defender was in the way to block it.
Thomsen’s golden opportunity came moments later, when second-half sub Tony Rocha took the ball deep into the box down the left and crossed a ball that deflected off Miller and fell right at the midfielder’s feet. Thomsen was one of three Lions in the box with the keeper helpless but the ball fell for him and it was his shot that sliced over the bar from just outside the six.
That was the last good chance for either side until the 87th minute, when the Lions sent an errant pass in the attacking half that Harrisburg easily picked out to ignite the counter. Mensah fired just wide of the target for the visitors.
Dikwa and Da Silva tried to make some late-game magic happen to rescue all three points as time wound down. Dikwa’s fizzed cross for Hadji Barry was deflected away by a defender at the last second early in stoppage time. Then Da Silva managed to get to the byline twice in rapid succession. His first cross was right onto Dikwa but the teenager from Cameroon mistimed his header and it bounced around until Da Silva was able to get back on it. The second cross was too close to Miller, who collected.
A subsequent stoppage-time cross fell perfectly for Thomsen at nearly the exact same spot as his earlier miss. This time he one-timed a shot on target but right at Miller who made a reaction save. Pereira nodded the ensuing corner over the bar.
“First off, we’re creating chances, so that’s a positive,” Carroll said after the match. “It’s one thing if we’re getting these 0-0 score lines and not creating chances but that’s not the case with us right now. The chances are there and on another night we put both of those away. The advice we give to those guys is ‘just keep shooting and they’ll fall eventually.’”
Referee Jonathan Weiner blew his whistle while OCB was trying to counter attack and the game ended, 0-0. The young Lions held 52.2% of the possession for the game, a 13-8 advantage in shots (2-3 on target), and a better passing percentage (82.8%-79.2%) but simply couldn’t finish chances again.
“Training sessions have been excellent all year. The attitude and the application of the guys every day has been first class,” Pulis said. “So I’m not going to sit here and criticize them because as you’ve seen, they’ve given their all again tonight. I think we could have easily won all four of those home games that we tied. It’s not going for us at the moment, it’s not dropping, but I’ll make sure that their heads are right for what’s going to be a massive game at Cincinnati on Saturday.”
Da Silva was noticeably tired at the end of the game and Pulis said he thought the rust showed after Pierre had missed the three games. He also said Da Silva threw up at halftime as he battled a bit of a stomach bug. Still, it was Pierre that created the best chances down the stretch for his teammates.
The young Lions will be back in action Saturday night when they visit FC Cincinnati at 7 p.m. It will be the third meeting of the year for the two clubs. OCB is 1-0-1 against FC
Starting XI: Earl Edwards Jr.; PC (Conor Donovan - 46’), Zach Carroll, Leo Pereira, Youmeni Jules; Ryley Kraft, Jordan Schweitzer (Tony Rocha - 62’), Scott Thomsen, Pierre Da Silva; Albert Dikwa, Michael Cox (Hadji Barry - 62’).
Unused Subs: Jake Fenlason, Austin Martz, Fernando Timbo, Joe Gallardo.
Yellow Cards: HAR- Calvano (51’).