Orlando City B recently went on a 12-game unbeaten streak, which saw the team dart up the standings into what appeared to be a sure landing in the playoffs. Two straight losses struck fear that the team could be heading in the direction of last year’s team. These next three games provide the opportunity for the young Lions to prove otherwise.
Last year, OCB went on a similar streak where it went nine games unbeaten from June 11 to Aug. 6. The run included four wins and five draws. With the playoffs within reach, the team went ice cold, dropping seven of its next eight and seven of its final nine. It took a 2-0 win at Bethlehem Steel on the final day of the season to capture the final playoff spot.
The ending of last season included a notorious week where the young Lions lost away to New York Red Bulls II, 5-1, and to the Charlotte Independence, 4-0. During that eight-game stretch, it was outscored, 19-3.
OCB sat in a similar position this year as it did last year when it went on its unbeaten streak. This time, it was 12 games unbeaten, which included four wins and eight draws. That was followed by two straight 2-0 losses to the Richmond Kickers at home and away to Saint Louis FC — both teams below the playoff line
While it is true that there are many differences in the roster between last year and this year, the leadership of the team remains the same. Anthony Pulis and Rob Valentino are still coaching, with Lewis Neal, Conor Donovan, and Pierre Da Silva as key players on the team. With those two losses in which the team looked lackadaisical, it was fair to ask if it could respond before the final game.
It responded well on Saturday night, beating a very good Charleston Battery team that had the league’s biggest offensive threat in Romario Williams. Coming away with a 2-1 win showed that it would not let its most recent losing streak become a trend as it did last year. But, can that continue to finish out the season?
Last year, OCB faltered late but was still able to hang on as long as other teams had similar results. The biggest obstacle this time for the young Lions is probably the Bethlehem Steel, which sits just one point behind and has two games in hand. But OCB does have an advantage this season.
A home-heavy beginning to last season meant that the team spent much of the second half of the season on the road. That included 12 of its final 18 games and its last four games. After playing four of five games away from Orlando City Stadium, OCB finishes this season with five of its last seven games at home, including three of its last four. Of those three home games, the young Lions took care of business with their 2-1 defeat of Charleston. After a trip to Richmond next week, OCB will return home to face New York Red Bulls II and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
OCB is a reserve team and the development of its players is more important than wins for the club, but a strong finish to the 2017 season would show an improvement in resiliency that was absent last year. With three games left in the regular season, the team has the ability to show it can do what last year’s team couldn’t.