Montverde, FL - Despite playing much better in the second half than in the first, Orlando City B (3-17-5) fell 3-1 to North Texas SC in its final home game of the season. The team ends its home schedule with three wins, eight losses, and three draws.
This was the first game without vice captain and center back Matheus Silva, who had started 18 of the team’s 23 games and left the club prior to the game. In his place, Jordan Hill got the start alongside Brandon John, who wore the armband for the first time this season. This game saw the return of Serginho and Thiago Souza, both of whom were not in the 18 for the team’s 3-1 loss at FC Tucson on Aug. 24.
North Texas opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. Richard Danso played a through ball for Ronaldo Damus, whose first touch was across the six-yard box. OCB goalkeeper Christian Herrera got a hand to the ball but not enough to deflect it off its trajectory. John Nelson was able to beat Leonardo Simas and Jordan Hill to the goal line where it tipped in, giving the visitors a well-deserved lead.
In the 47th minute, it appeared as though the visitors would double their lead when Leonardo Simas bumped into Damus in the box. It seemed to be a soft call by referee Alex Billeter, but North Texas was given a penalty. After a brief delay, Arturo Rodriguez stepped up to take the kick. Placing it right down the middle, Herrera lifted his right hand and made the stop, keeping the deficit at one.
Six minutes after the penalty save, OCB equalized. After his first corner was deflected out, Lucas Ontivero found the head of Brandon John who turned the ball past Carlos Avilez for his first goal of the season.
“Lucas was putting in great balls on set pieces all game,” John said about the goal. “I got my head on the ball at the first post. I was lucky to put a touch on it and put it in the back of the net.”
Right off the restart, Richard Danso dribbled down the right side and played it forward for Ronaldo Damus who put it in for North Texas. The goal came just 57 seconds after OCB had equalized the game.
“I think it’s a lapse in concentration from us defensively,” John said about conceding so quickly after his goal. “They say in soccer once you score, you’re the most susceptible to concede a goal. We saw that there.”
In the 56th minute, OCB nearly equalized for a second time. A curling free kick by Ontivero found the head once again of John. The central defender beat his man to the ball but not the post as the ball bounced off, inches from giving John his second goal of the game.
After missing its first penalty of the game, North Texas got another shot in the 70th minute. Arturo Rodriguez sent Gilbran Rayo through on goal as Jordan Hill came in to challenge. Pushing him off the ball, Billeter once again pointed to the spot.
USL League One’s top scorer, Ronaldo Damus, stepped up to take this one and didn’t disappoint. He sent Herrera the wrong way, putting it into the left-hand corner of the goal and extending North Texas’ lead to 3-1.
“I believe that the team fought all the way until the end,” OCB Head Coach Roberto Sibaja said after the game. “Unfortunately, we were playing against other outside scenarios that I prefer not to go deep into that. Giving up two penalty kicks that never existed kills the momentum of the game.”
North Texas came out of the gate flying in this one, forcing OCB onto its back foot for most of the first half. The visitors had 72 percent possession in the first 45 minutes and, despite getting four shots off, the Young Lions were never dangerous.
“It was difficult,” center back and captain John said after the game. “It took a lot out of us but I thought we defended fairly well against one of the better teams in the league. They were moving the ball pretty well but we stayed as a block and dug in defensively.”
“We’ve been working and understanding that discipline is key,” Sibaja added. “Without discipline, we’re not going to be able to take a step forward. These guys have had a difficult season, but understanding that the defensive discipline is going to be key for us to take a step forward on the next games.”
The team was completely different in the second half. It came out with an attacking mindset that wasn’t seen in the first half. It could’ve been a very different result if not for a lapse of concentration after John’s goal and a poor challenge by Hill.
“Continue to have a defensive shape,” is what Sibaja told his team at the half. “We change a little bit in the way we pressed, especially with the three midfielders. Towards the end of the game, we changed from two holding midfielders to one holding midfielders and two attacking midfielders.”
“We decided to press in a different way,” he continued. “We decided to press the player that was closest to us and stay with them for the entire play. So it would interrupt their buildup from the back.”
A positive from this game is that the team didn’t give up, despite being dominated in the first 45 minutes. Sitting in last place and being the only team in the league to already be eliminated from playoff contention could have resulted in the team laying down in the second half. But the team fought until the final whistle blew.
OCB will end the season with a four-game road trip. That trip will begin next Friday afternoon when the Young Lions travel north of the border to take on Toronto FC II.