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Belief and Hard Work Can Lead OCB to a Positive Finish

Through plenty of effort to improve, OCB is ending the season strongly.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City B defeated Greenville Triumph SC 1-0 in its penultimate game of the 2019 USL League One season Friday night. The win broke a 10-game losing streak and a 15-game winless streak. While the season has been a disappointment as a whole, the win allowed the Young Lions some success before the off-season.

After a slow start to the season, OCB seemed to find its stride in mid-May. its first win of the year came on May 17 at home against Toronto FC II. The Young Lions followed that up with a 3-2 win over the Richmond Kickers. After a 2-2 draw against FC Tucson, their lone point away from home before Friday night, they won their third straight home game and third in four games against Forward Madison FC. It appeared as though the Young Lions would make a push for the playoffs. But that was the last win the team claimed until this past weekend.

On June 12, OCB lost a tough game against FC Tucson in which it gave up two goals in the final three minutes of the first half. A second half penalty by Thiago Souza pulled a goal back, but it wasn’t enough as the team fell 2-1. OCB went on to lose three more consecutively before pulling out a last minute draw on July 10 against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC. Unknown at the time, that point was the last one before a drought of over 70 days.

On July 24, OCB lost 4-1 to South Georgia Tormenta FC at Montverde Academy. It was the team’s third loss of a 10-game losing streak. After that game, OCB vice captain Koby Osei-Wusu spoke about why the team had struggled so much.

“It’s more just breaking a losing streak,” he said about the team’s losses. “When you’re on a losing streak, on any team, it’s difficult to break. Soccer’s a game of momentum. So if we can just change the momentum, I think we can really change the course of the last part of the season.”

Obviously, OCB was unable to change that course. It went on to lose another seven consecutive games. At the time, Osei-Wusu said the team’s goal was to avoid finishing the season in last place. As time went on, that goal changed to simply getting one more win before the season ended.

As the season continued, many people lost hope that OCB would claim any more points this year. But the team was getting closer than ever.

On Sept. 6, OCB hosted North Texas SC in its last home game of the season. The FC Dallas development team sat on top of the USL League One standings and it was expected that OCB wouldn’t compete. The visitors took the lead in the first half but the Young Lions were able to hold the deficit at one into the break. Early in the second half, a Lucas Ontivero corner found the head of Brandon John for the equalizer. Unfortunately, as OCB celebrated the goal, North Texas quickly restarted play and went back ahead less than a minute after John’s goal. The Young Lions went on to lose that game 3-1.

The following weekend, it appeared once again as though OCB would break the losing streak. OCB took the early lead through Ontivero and went into the break at 1-1. After Jordan Perruzza scored for Toronto FC II, Thiago Souza equalized in the 71st minute. It appeared as though OCB would at least pull out a draw but a Tanner Hummel own goal with five minutes remaining sealed its fate in a 3-2 defeat.

Last week, for the third consecutive game, OCB was headed in the right direction. A 34th minute goal by Sito Seoane was countered by a first half injury time goal by Leonardo Simas. Chattanooga came charging out of the break and Tony Walls gave the hosts a 2-1 lead. Neither team really threatened to score for the remainder of the game.

OCB had come very close to ending the losing streak on multiple occasions but couldn’t finish it out. Time and again the Young Lions ended up conceding a cheap goal due to a lapse of concentration or a late mistake resulting in a devastating loss. Those losses added up and put a weight on the players. As Osei-Wusu said earlier in the year, it gets tougher to break a streak the longer it lasts.

On Friday night, Greenville was a team needing a win as it continues to fight for the second spot in the league and the right to host a playoff game. In previous games, OCB had allowed too many open shots at the top of the box or made a simple defensive mistake. That’s why the team dropped 10 straight games. But in this game, that didn’t happen.

The defense was solid, closing down the attack when it looked for space for a shot. Every shot Greenville took, especially late in the second half, was challenged by an OCB defender. While the hosts still held the majority of possession, they began to wear down. Unlike in previous games where OCB bunkered down and attempted to withstand a barrage of shots, the team was able to carry the ball out of danger at times. This resulted in a great chance late for William Bagrou to double the lead on a breakaway.

After the loss to North Texas in the team’s final home game, OCB Head Coach Roberto Sibaja spoke about discipline. He stated that his goal for the remainder of the season was that the team would improve in that facet. He said it starts in the locker room and doesn’t end until the players re-enter the locker room after the game.

Friday night’s game showed the type of discipline that Sibaja was talking about. The team was focused for the entire 90 minutes — something that it’s struggled with all year. Having guaranteed last place in the league, it became an afterthought. But the team continued to show a belief and work ethic that ensured one more moment of glory before the season ended.

“We all care so much about each other and about the club that we don’t want to finish at the bottom,” Osei-Wusu said back in July. “If we can turn it around, we can end the season on a positive note.”

While the Young Lions will still finish at the bottom, the positive note is still within reach.