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Kids vs. Pros: Late Penalty Gives Kids a Comeback Draw

Helped by a penalty call in the last minute, the kids stayed undefeated in the competition with a 6-6 tie.

Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The one thing that is certain when you cross the threshold and enter Orlando City Stadium is that you are about to be part of something electric, something primal, something that bonds you with those around you in a way that begins to emulate a collective consciousness, where one thought from one corner of the house suddenly becomes a thunderous roar.

It happened many times during last night’s Kids vs. Pros — presented by Arnold Palmer Hospital — match, and much of that roar was aimed at those players we typically come to see.

The crowd was certainly there to see one thing, and that was 50 kids at a time taking on a starting XI mix of Orlando City and Orlando Pride players in a very serious football match. From the first whistle, it was obvious these kids were not there for their 15 minutes of fame. They were certainly there to stake their claim to glory and prestige, and to do so in the face of their much more seasoned, and much taller opponents. Trying to keep track of anything during the match will take hours upon hours of time in the replay booth. Kids were everywhere, swarming the Pros at every chance, and they obviously were coached from the beginning to be very attack oriented. From my vantage point near midfield, it looked as though the kids were playing in a 2-10-36 formation, with two in goal to even the odds.

The Pros, well, certainly looked very taken aback by the formation and coordinated mass movement of the Kids, but quickly found that they could use the width of the pitch and switch the play to their advantage. Joe Bendik, taking a break from minding the net, was a prime target for much of the match, his mullet shining like bastion of freedom (it also helps that he seemed to be the tallest individual on the pitch by at least a foot). He did score a beautiful header, which normally would be met with smoke and song, but this time was met with jeers and disgust.

Chioma Ubogagu was certainly the most dangerous of the Pro players in the first half, seeming to be able to find every small seam the Kids left open to either pass, dribble, or shoot through, including a stunning shot early that found the back of the net that was immediately met with disdain and sadness. Chi also was on the receiving end of a fantastic cross from Earl Edwards Jr.

The first half ended 3-3.

The Wall was noticeably louder the second half, which certainly affected the Pro net minder (rookie striker Chris Mueller wore the goalkeeper kit well), and not in the way typical of a home match. These drums now beat for 50.

The crowd could feel, and see, the ref losing control in the second half, so much so that the crowd happily offered to give him a recommendation for a new career on a certain street in Orlando. Victor “PC” Giro was begging for a booking all during the second half, constantly getting beat and pulling back opponents as they drove the ball past. The ref must have had something is his eyes all night, like the bright lights of the big city, because he never saw one, and PC was able to get away with it.

The second half was back and forth, back and forth with the Kids doing a fantastic job of holding shape throughout the match, really looking to spring on the counter since it was obvious the back four of the Pros couldn’t keep up. The Pros were still sticking to big switches of play and utilizing height as they attacked and it was working, helping them come back from 5-3 down to take a 6-5 lead with minutes left. And this is where it all went wrong.

Rumor has it that Yoshimar Yotún may or may not have been given a red card in the preseason match against Chicago this past weekend, and he obviously brought that chip on his shoulder with him to this match. With the seconds winding down, and Pros just needing to clear the ball from their own box, a scrum started, kids went down, and the ref’s whistle blew. Somewhere in that sea of tiny humanity, it would appear that Yoshi fouled a kid in the box. To be honest, it was very difficult to see exactly what transpired, however, based on Yoshi’s reaction to the ref, and having to be physically restrained by his teammates, I think it is safe to say that he was not pleased with the call, the yellow card, or the award of the PK. This would be it, the last play of the match, and in dramatic nail biting fashion. Goal. Full time and the score line read 6-6.

The Kids from Orlando City Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, LionNation and Kingston’s Cub Club remain unbeaten in the competition after a 7-3 victory a year ago.

All jokes and banter aside, what an amazing match and experience, not just for the 100 kids that got to take part on the pitch, but for the fans that came out to watch, and the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players that took part. I had a smile on my face the entire time, from watching the swarm of kids race up and down the pitch, to watching Pro players try to meg as many kids as possible while keeping everything fun. The match also produced this gem, which made it to Sports Center, because wow. Da da da, da da da!

Congratulations to the Orlando City Foundation on another amazing event!