Coming into the game on a 12-match unbeaten streak, Orlando City B (8-7-12, 36 points) fell behind early and could not come back. The Richmond Kickers (6-13-8, 26 points) were the better team on the night and stole three points in Orlando City Stadium.
“Bitterly disappointing game to be honest,” said OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis. “The biggest disappointment to me is the level of performance for the first 60 minutes. This was as poor as we’ve been since probably we’ve been in the league. It was really disappointing.”
During OCB’s run, there has not been the same back four in consecutive games, and tonight was no different. Zach Ellis-Hayden and Kevin Alston played as fullbacks, and Conor Donovan and Timbo were in the middle. Jake Fenlason got another start in goal, in for Earl Edwards Jr., who is with the MLS side.
While the defensive changes have worked in the past, tonight was the just the second time during the young Lions’ run that the team has given up multiple goals and the first time at home. The goals came just minutes apart, late in the first half.
In the 41st minute, Mikey Minutillo got on the end of a bouncing ball in the box. Multiple OCB defenders were there but they were unable to clear it and Minutillo headed it past Fenlason. Then, in first-half stoppage time, Conor Donovan committed a foul just outside the box and Sunny Jane’s direct free kick left Fenlason watching the ball go in the back of his net.
Hadji Barry had the best chance for the young Lions in the first half. He should have scored the opening goal in the ninth minute, but his take went just over the bar.
“Coach Ant had a few choice words for us at halftime,” Lewis Neal said. “I expected that and rightly so, give us a little bit of a kick in the backside. I thought there was a reaction in the second half, still nowhere near what we need.”
Aside from the scoreline, the first half was fairly even. The Kickers took the edge in the possession battle (44% - 56%), but both teams had four shots and 89% passing accuracy. Pulis made two changes to start the second half. Paul Clowes and Albert Dikwa came in for Austin Martz and Danny Deakin, respectively, in an attempt to extended the unbeaten run to 13 games.
Richmond came out of the half as the better team, and OCB struggled to gain any possession. The Kickers’ possession was nonthreatening, though, and they rarely got above the halfway line. So, OCB controlled the ball, and when the young Lions were in possession they immediately went on the attack. Scott Thomsen, Dikwa, and Barry all had chances to get a goal back in the second half, but their shots either went wide or the chance was broken up by the opposition.
In the 70th minute, Ellis-Hayden made something out of nothing. He took the ball inside the box, cut back to beat a defender and create room for a left-footed shot. His shot was heading for the back post but Travis Worra got a hand to it to keep the visitors up, 2-0. On the ensuing corner, Barry’s shot from about eight yards out went sailing into The Wall.
“We saw a little bit of a reaction for the last 30 minutes,” said Pulis. “We moved the ball a little bit quicker and we looked like we might break some chances.”
Joe Gallardo entered the game in the 70th minute, and his hustle did not go unnoticed. In the first 10 minutes that he was in, Gallardo forced multiple turnovers, won a corner, and nearly scored. It was unlucky for him that most of his teammates were stagnant, not making runs, and committed unforced turnovers.
In the last five minutes, Richmond defended with the entire team inside the Kickers’ own third of the field. This created chance after chance for the young Lions but, with the midfield trailing behind, most opportunities went out for corners. They were unable to find the back of the net, and Richmond’s two first-half goals were enough to win it.
“We are really disappointed with the team today,” said Neal. “We let ourselves down massively. We set really high standards for ourselves for the last half of the season, and the standards we played today were nowhere near what we’ve set ourselves to play. It will be a little bit back to the drawing board and try and pick up and go off on another run again.”
Having played an extra game than seven of the nine teams below them in the tightly packed Eastern Conference standings, OCB will need a run to secure a playoff spot. Tonight’s loss could mean a drop to 10th place and out of playoff contention if results don’t go the young Lions’ way.
OCB is back in action again Saturday, Sept. 16 as the young Lions travel to Saint Louis FC.
Starting XI: Jake Fenlason; Zachary Ellis-Hayden, Conor Donovan, Fernando Timbo, Kevin Alston (Joe Gallardo — 70’); Lewis Neal, Scott Thomsen, Austin Martz (Paul Clowes — 45’), Danny Deakin (Albert Dikwa — 45’), Jordan Schweitzer; Hadji Barry.
Unused Subs: Mason Stajduhar, Zach Carroll, Ryley Kraft, Pen Polk.
Goals: ORL — None; RIC — Minutillo (40’), Jane (45’+1).
Yellow Cards: ORL — Schweitzer (22’); RIC — Bolduc (54’).