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Orlando City B Must Stay Mentally Strong for 90 Minutes

Mental lapses have plagued OCB recently, which is something that must change for future success.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City B entered its game against FC Tucson Wednesday night with a three-game home winning streak and a four-game point streak. Since then, the Young Lions have lost two straight and plummeted back down toward the bottom of the league. So what’s changed?

Two weeks ago, OCB headed west to Tucson, AZ where it met FC Tucson. The team played very well defensively in the first half and entered the second half up a goal after Rafael Santos scored a terrific free kick right before the halftime whistle. Coming out of the locker room, the team had multiple bad giveaways in the defensive third of the field that could’ve resulted in goals. In the 58th minute, the team fell asleep during a substitution, resulting in the equalizer from Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu. The game ended 2-2 but could’ve been the team’s third straight win if not for the mental error.

The mental lapses appeared again Saturday night in Georgia. OCB played well defensively in the first half, only giving up two good opportunities to the opposition. Following the break, the same defensive problems arose when Matheus Silva gave away the ball near the top of the box and then nearly put a poor clearance beyond Juliano Chade and into his own net. It was a play reminiscent to the own goal scored in Texas on April 27.

The opening goal in this most recent game came off a corner kick, something that OCB has struggled with this season, and OCB had a chance to clear it. The play started when Austin Amer attempted to win the ball away from Marco Micaletto, but the poor attempt resulted in a corner kick. On the ensuing kick, Tormenta FC had three chances at goal, with two kept out by brilliant saves from Juliano Chade. The inability to clear the clear the ball resulted in the game’s opening goal.

The second goal was more of the same. Randy Mendoza failed to bring the ball down cleanly at midfield, allowing Tormenta to take possession. Even with Yaw Amankwa and Alex Morrell charging down field, Mendoza was able to get back into a defensive position. Just as he had gotten in front of the attacker, Mendoza slipped, allowing Morrell to shoot on goal.

While Morrell shouldn’t have been able to beat Chade to his near post, it was the giveaway and slip by Mendoza that provided him that opportunity.

These are only split moments during a 90-minute game but those few moments can cost dearly.

“Professional soccer games are decided in those little moments,” OCB goalkeeper Chrsitian Herrera said after the team’s 2-1 loss to FC Tucson Wednesday night.

“You’ve got to be constantly in the game. Tuned in,” Silva added.

As with most issues that OCB has had this season, Head Coach Jose De Argila Irurita says it mostly comes down to the overall lack of experience in the team. “This kind of thing can happen to a team that is young,” he said Wednesday night.

This tendency for mental lapses during games has potentially cost OCB six points in the last three games. In a league that is so close, the difference between fourth and 10th is four points. Those points could be the difference between finishing in the postseason and finishing last in the league.

OCB had a very home-heavy schedule early this season which means that it will be playing most of its remaining games away from the friendly confines of Montverde Academy. If the young team doesn’t figure out how to mentally stay in the game for 90 minutes, it could be a long second half of the season.