Through the first two games of the 2019 USL League One season, Orlando City B is near the top of the table in bookings, something that must change if it wants to start gathering points.
OCB has been given eight yellow cards in its first two games, placing the Young Lions second in the league behind South Georgia Tormenta’s nine. Additionally, and more damaging, two OCB players have been sent off in the first two weeks and the team’s nine total bookings are tied for the most in the league.
The most undisciplined game for the Young Lions came during their first match against FC Tucson. Despite OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita labeling his team as “excessively penalized,” there were a variety of dangerous tackles that could’ve resulted in more than the team’s six bookings. The worst came in the 45th minute, when defender Randy Mendoza placed a two-footed tackle on Zach Wright. Referee Jasmine Peralta had no choice but to send the 23-year-old off.
OCB was down 1-0 at the time of the red card but soon the game got too far out of reach. Four minutes into first half injury time, Wright scored Tucson’s second goal of the game, clearly demoralizing the hosts. A 56th-minute goal provided some life for the Lions, but they fell 3-1 in their season opener.
Discipline became a problem for the Young Lions again in their second game of the season against Toronto FC II. While there were not as many bookings or troubling challenges as the first game, a sending off again proved to be the defining moment of the match. Defender Emmanuel Hagan, who accounted for one of the bookings against Tucson, had already been issued a yellow card by Amin Hadzic in the 34th minute. Just before half time, Hagan received the ball from Nathan Simeon, but his touch got away from him and allowed Luca Petrasso to intercept. Hagan slid in and took down the Canadian attacker, giving the referee no choice but to issue a second yellow.
After a wonderful diving save by goalkeeper Christian Herrera, Hagan’s absence was obvious on the ensuing corner kick. With three defenders in the back, the ball sailed to the back post where Petrasso found nobody around and volleyed the shot for the opening goal. For the second straight game, the man who had been fouled to force the sending off quickly responded by giving the visitors the lead.
The poor discipline showed by the team through two games can be chalked up to a lack of experience. The team has an average age of 20 years and players may not be able to emotionally handle the stressful situations in which they’ve been placed. At least, that’s what Irurita thinks.
“Sometimes with a team without experience these things happen because they have too much passion to play this sport,” he says. “They don’t have the experience to control their emotions.”
During the first game against FC Tucson, the Young Lions and their coach felt as though they were being booked too frequently. Their response to this was even harder challenges. Eventually, this resulted in the dangerous tackle that got Mendoza sent off.
In the second game against Toronto FC II, it was a bad giveaway by Hagan that provided a clear opportunity for Petrasso. With the opposing attacker bearing down on goal, the defender panicked, resulting in an ill-advised tackle that resulted in his second yellow card.
In their first two games, the Young Lions have played down a man for nearly the entirety of the second half. In both games, it was shortly after the red card that the opponents took over.
“Logically, you give a lot of advantage play when a man down,” OCB’s head coach said. “I think we can play with 11 players.”
OCB already gives the advantage in experience and size to most of its opponents. Providing them with an extra man for half of the game makes it nearly impossible for this young team to match up. Moving forward, the young players will have to learn to control their emotions in pressure situations if they want to compete.