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Orlando City B Finding Success by Scoring First and Holding Leads

OCB’s has turned around its early season trends to build a four-game unbeaten streak.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

After conceding first during the first two games, Orlando City B has made a recent habit of opening the scoring. More importantly, the team has recently been able to hold onto those leads. But why are the Young Lions starting so fast and what’s allowing them to hold onto their leads?

In the first two games of the season, OCB had discipline issues that led to a pair of red cards and provided the opposition with the lead. Dismissals to Randy Mendoza and Emmanuel Hagan directly led to goals that immediately put the Young Lions on the back foot.

These discipline issues were largely due to the inexperience of the team. Many of the players are playing their first professional season. This caused them to allow their emotions to get the best of them, resulting in ill-timed tackles that gave the referee no choice but to distribute a harsh punishment.

Since that second game against Toronto FC II, OCB has scored first seven times, including the last five games. This has allowed the team to get on the front foot early and push the opposition into situations where they are chasing the game.

“Because we are a very intense team, we go high in the press in the beginning,” OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita said after the team’s win over the Richmond Kickers.

“That’s our style of play,” OCB midfielder Serginho added. “Fernando is always asking us to go high press in certain times of the game. And once the team is pumped up, once the team is all together and excited to play, the press is going to happen even better.”

This high pressure has resulted in early goals and a more relaxed team. When the team has been forced to chase the game, a sense of panic ensues. This is partly due to the young players not knowing how to handle the situation and partly due to the opposition controlling the tempo of the game.

The fact that OCB has won three of its last four games and took the lead in the first half of each is no coincidence.

“It makes you relaxed when you are playing and the other team has to go out to go for the game so you can find more space,” Argila said after the team’s 2-0 win over Forward Madison FC Friday night.

While scoring first has definitely had an impact on OCB’s recent success, a critical change has been the team’s ability to hold onto leads. Prior to this four-game point streak, the Young Lions took the lead in three games but it only resulted in a draw and two losses.

The coaching staff attributes this newly found ability to hold onto leads to defending with the ball and controlling the tempo.

“What we needed to do was defend with the ball, try to move it and shuffle the game, relax everything,” Argila said Friday night. “We are a young team and sometimes when the result is 2-0, they want to show too much and they want to continue scoring and scoring and sometimes you need to know when you have to hold down the game.”

“The big change now from the beginning, before we started winning, we couldn’t keep the result and we’d lose games when we started winning,” he continued. “Now that has changed and that means that the team is improving and understanding how to control the game. The last game against Madison here we started winning 1-0 from that penalty from Koby (Osei-Wusu), we finished losing. With Tormenta, we were winning and we tied so little by little we are getting more experience knowing how to control the tempo of the game.”

While some of this is due to the team gaining experience, Argila says the addition of captain Rafael Santos is a big factor. After missing the first five games, the 24-year-old has played in the last six and started the last five. In addition to being a key component of the offense, he’s netted two long-range strikes in the last two games and nearly two others.

“Rafael Santos is really important for the team because he knows how to control the tempo of the game,” Argila says about his captain. “He’s our coach on the field.”

OCB’s ability to control the tempo to hold onto and extend leads has turned around a season that seemed doomed just weeks ago. The Young Lions now sit within reaching distance of the desired fourth position, the final playoff spot. If they can continue scoring first and maintaining the play directed by the coaching staff, this could end up being the most successful season yet for the Young Lions.