To say that the 2019 season for Orlando City B has been a difficult one would be an understatement. The team started the season on a seven-game winless streak, which included five losses. After it appeared the team had found its way, claiming points in four straight games, it’s lost its last four. With the team entering its first extended break of the season, it must show a strong mentality to salvage the season.
Following OCB’s seven-game winless streak, it appeared its fortunes had changed after its 2-0 win over Toronto FC II. The team was full of confidence and went on to win three home games and claim points in four straight.
“The team is really good right now,” OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita said after the team’s 3-2 win over the Richmond Kickers. “The team was already good before the victories. They never stopped putting intensity into practice, doesn’t matter of the result. We lost games and they continue pushing harder. Now we find the net and now the result is going for us and the team’s morale is really high.”
The current slide started when the team gave up two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half against FC Tucson. While it got one back through a Thiago Souza penalty, it was too little, too late and the Young Lions fell, 2-1.
Following that game, the team hit the road for a pair of difficult games against South Georgia Tormenta FC and Lansing Ignite FC. The offense had moments where it looked dangerous in Georgia but the Young Lions were played off the field in Michigan and appeared to have given up at the end of the game.
That defeated mentality continued into Friday night’s loss against Greenville Triumph SC at Montverde Academy.
“It’s very difficult to win a game if you don’t try,” Argila said following the game. “We didn’t have the ball. We lost the ball too easily. Greenville didn’t do anything to put difficulty on our possession. They were waiting all the time for our mistakes and we were making simple mistakes. I think the other team had an easy day with us.”
“People were just off and not giving the effort,” OCB midfielder Serginho added. “Not the effort that we usually do and that the team wants.”
While OCB had a difficult stretch to start the season, it had not lost more than two consecutive games until this four-game losing streak. However, OCB has an advantage now that it didn’t in the past: an extended break. After Friday’s loss, the Young Lions won’t take the field again until they host Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on July 10. The 12 days between games is the second-longest break they’ll have this season, with a similar 13-day layoff in August.
“We have many days to work hard, to practice” OCB goalkeeper Juliano Chade said after Friday night’s loss. “We’ll improve in the next game. It’s difficult when you’ve lost four straight games. It’s difficult, but you need to trust in yourself. You need to trust in coach. You need to trust in your partners. So this is the idea: I trust everybody in my team. I trust in coach, so we need to train and work hard to win the next game.”
A team’s mentality can be tested when it enters an extended break. While some teams may let the current stretch weigh on them as they prepare for the next game, others will take the extended break as a blessing to forget their current struggles. In times like this, the team depends on the experience of its older players.
For this team, that means those like Rafael Santos, Koby Osei-Wusu, and Matheus Silva. Despite being in their early 20s, these are some of the most experienced players on the team and have gone through difficult stretches before.
“Whenever we have a tough stretch of games that we’ve been losing, we rely on them to keep the team calm, keep the team relaxed, and keep helping us to get our mentality straight — moving on and focusing on the next game,” Serginho said.
OCB currently sits at the bottom of the USL League One standings with 12 points and 13 games to go. Despite its struggles, OCB is still only nine points out from the fourth and final playoff spot. If it wants to make a run at the postseason, it must get its mentality right and come back strong from this extended break.