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Orlando City B Must Learn to “Defend Forward”

Sunday’s draw was an improvement, but the team still faces issues.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

In each of its first two games of the 2019 USL League One season, Orlando City B fell behind and played catch-up for most of the second half. That changed Sunday when the Young Lions took a 1-0 lead over South Georgia Tormenta FC and had to defend that advantage. It proved a test for the team and something that the team needs improve upon in the coming games.

After OCB’s 2-0 loss to Toronto FC II, Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita said the team’s inexperience led to poor decisions. These poor decisions led to a pair of red cards and multiple goals conceded and the result was OCB playing from behind and a man down. While the team has improved on controlling its emotions to avoid devastating bookings, now it needs to learn how to hold a lead.

“Last week, we were a young team,” OCB Assistant Coach José Silva Caparrós said. “We need to get more experience playing against other professional teams.”

The experience of the last two weeks appears to have been helpful as the Young Lions were able to control themselves during stretches of the game that became more physical. Rather than jumping in on rash challenges, they were able to defend and win back possession. Playing with 11 men on the field allowed the team to get their first lead of the season.

In the 58th minute, Thiago Souza received a long ball from Austin Amer and found William Bagrou. The striker moved the ball inside until a charging Ates Diouf placed his foot on it and sent it past Tormenta FC goalkeeper Pablo Jara for the opening goal.

With about a half an hour remaining in the game, OCB was put in the new situation of having to defend a lead rather than chase a deficit. It was clearly a new task that the team struggled with.

As time wound down, it appeared as though the Young Lions were going to come away with their first win of the season. But four minutes into stoppage time, the visitors struck an equalizer. A long free kick into the box found the head of Lars Eckenrode, who redirected it on goal. OCB goalkeeper Juliano Chade came out to punch it but missed, hitting Bagrou’s head instead, and the visitors stole a point.

“When you are winning,” Caparrós said, “you need to continue believing in the identity and try to keep more of the ball and defend with the ball. This is something that we didn’t have today, but this is a lesson for the guys and next Friday we will improve on that.”

What concerned the coaching staff the most about Sunday’s draw was sitting back to defend rather than defending forward. The team lacks height and allowed the older and bigger opposition to launch balls into the box. Caparrós said this likely cost the team two points.

“We need to continue defending forward,” Caparrós said after the game. “We cannot drop the team inside our box against a team that is taller than you.”

Despite the disappointment of the draw, the coaching staff indicated they feel that the team is improving on its early weaknesses and that, while frustrating, these incidents will result in improvement for the young players.

“I think we did a lot of improvement on that and these guys each day are improving,” Caparrós said about his team. “It’s a good experience for all of them because they are young.”

OCB struggled the last two weeks with keeping its emotions under control. While the team learned its lesson in that respect, now it must learn how to maintain a lead. Given the improvements so far, it’s reasonable to expect the players will improve on that in the near future as well.