MONTVERDE, FL — It was two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half that doomed Orlando City B (3-6-3, 12 points) tonight against FC Tucson. The Young Lions pulled one back in the second half but were unable to equalize, falling 2-1. The loss snapped OCB’s four-game USL League One unbeaten streak.
OCB made its first change to the back line since April 12 as Jordan Hill replaced Randy Mendoza, who was on loan to the first team for the Lions’ U.S. Open Cup game in Memphis. Captain Rafael Santos also missed out on this game after coming off with a lower extremity injury Friday night against Forward Madison FC.
Thiago Souza, who entered the game with a team-leading three goals, started from the bench. It was his first time out of the starting lineup since April 5. This game saw 17-year-old academy product Moises Tablante re-enter the lineup after missing the previous two games.
The game started quickly with both teams getting an opportunity at goal. Within the first minute, a quick scramble in the box forced OCB goalkeeper Christian Herrera to make an early save. Less than two minutes later, the Young Lions got their first chance on goal. Tablante made a nice run down the right and played the ball into the box for the oncoming Tresor Mbuyu. However, the ball got through the box without the final touch.
The game settled down after those two chances with neither team getting as close to opening the scoring. It picked up again just before the half when FC Tucson was able to strike twice in succession leading into the break.
The first goal came in the 44th minute. After receiving a cross-field pass by Colin Stripling, Jamael Cox nearly lost the ball to Serginho. He quickly was able to regain possession and attempted a shot from about 30 yards away from goal. The low shot skipped by Herrera for the game’s opening goal.
The second goal came off a set piece, something that has plagued OCB this season. A Terrón corner kick toward the back of the box was headed back across goal by Stirpling. After Jordan Jones attempted a bicycle kick and didn’t make contact, Kyle Venter took a left-footed shot on goal. The hard shot got behind the kneeling Herrera and in, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
“I think it was a lack of concentration,” OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose de Argila Irurita said after the game. “All of the team had a lack of concentration the last three minutes. The other player, when he saw our mistake, he knew how to take advantage of that. I think if we went to halftime 0-0, we would’ve won this game. This kind of thing can happen to a team that is young.”
“Maybe unlucky, maybe our concentration went down, it happens on younger teams,” Herrera added. “It’s just something we’ve got to learn from. Professional soccer games are decided in those little moments. It’s something we need to learn from.”
After giving up those two goals just before the half, the team had to quickly respond to get back into the game.
“In halftime we told them we have to be more aggressive,” Argila said. “We are already down 2-0 so we have nothing to lose. We need to press high. We made some tactical changes in the middle and we made some substitutions with Steven (Hernandez) and Thiago (Souza) that changed the rhythm of the game.”
OCB responded early into the second half, cutting the deficit in half in the 59th minute. A quick one-two near midfield with Matheus Silva allowed Leonardo Simas to beat his defender and make a run into the box. As he carried the ball into the box, Devyn Jambga took him down and referee Natalie Simon pointed to the spot.
“I saw that I could take the guy on and my style is my strength,” Simas said about the play. “It was a grateful moment to push forward and help with the PK.”
Second-half substitute Souza stepped up to the spot and put the penalty off the fingertips of FC Tucson goalkeeper Carlos Merancio Valdez and into the corner. It was Souza’s third penalty conversion this season and his fourth goal, a team high.
Following the goal, OCB picked up some momentum in the game and was able to produce the best opportunity all game. In the 62nd minute, William Bagrou was dragged down in the box, prompting penalty calls from the Young Lions but to no avail. Bagrou nearly scored the equalizer in the 73rd when a misplay in the back allowed a shot by the forward, forcing Valdez into a one-handed diving save.
In the 84th minute, it was Tablante’s chance to get in on the action. The midfielder found some space at the corner of the box and fired on goal, just hitting it over the crossbar. In the 87th minute, Souza thought he had his second goal of the night, shooting a low shot from just outside the box. The ball appeared to be curling toward the back post but just skipped by and out of play.
While OCB had its chances, those two minutes at the end of the first half were the difference and the Young Lions fell 2-1 to FC Tucson. The loss breaks a three-game home winning streak and a four-game point streak.
“We played 87 minutes really good and three minutes bad,” Argila said about the performance. “That is how soccer is. The team that takes advantage of the mistakes of the other team has the opportunity to win. We had the option in the first five minutes to get in front on the scoreboard. But when you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, you take the risk of the other team taking advantage of their opportunities.”
Silva explained that you have to maintain concentration throughout all 90 minutes and that’s what doomed the team.
“You’ve got to be constantly in the game,” he said. “If you’re not tuned in, in two seconds they were able to capitalize. They were fortunate to capitalize on those mistakes.”
In addition to dropping a game they feel like they could’ve won, this is a difficult loss to swallow because of how tight the league currently is.
OCB will now hit the road heading to face South Georgia Tormenta FC Saturday night. The Young Lions won’t return home again until June 28 when they host Greenville Triumph SC.