KISSIMMEE — An eventful first half saw Orlando City B (1-0-1, 5 points) draw New York City FC II (0-0-2, 2 points) 2-2 at Osceola County Stadium. OCB followed up the 2-2 draw by winning the penalty shootout, taking home an extra point. Moises Tablante and David Boccuzzo — the latter from the penalty spot — provided the offense for OCB, which remained unbeaten on the young MLS NEXT Pro season.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made two changes from the team that beat Chicago Fire II last weekend. First-team players Joey DeZart and Thomas Williams entered the starting lineup, replacing Erick Gunera and Gonzalo Agustoni-Chagas. Other first-team players in the lineup included Jack Lynn, Wilfredo Rivera, and Alex Freeman.
Tonight's starting lineup! #VamosOrlando pic.twitter.com/SMYmGurUnZ— Orlando City B (@OrlandoCityB) April 3, 2022
NYCFC II got off to the stronger start, creating the first chance in the fourth minute. A corner kick resulted in a scramble in the box as the Young Lions were unable to clear. Eventually, Klevis Haxhari took a shot on goal that was blocked and OCB sent the ball up field.
OCB’s first good chance came in the 10th minute when Lynn was sent through on goal. It looked as though he would have a one-on-one against NYCFC II goalkeeper Alex Rando but the flag went up for offside.
A minute later, Freeman carried the ball into the box, beating a pair of defenders before going down. The defender was looking to draw a penalty but the referee was having none of it.
The best chance for NYCFC II in the first 20 minutes came in the 13th minute. The referee called a back pass that gave the visitors an indirect free kick at the corner of the OCB six-yard box. The Young Lions stacked the wall, allowing them to block the shot and clear.
The first goal of the game finally came in the 18th minute. A long ball for Lynn got the forward in behind the NYCFC II defense. Orlando City’s 2022 MLS SuperDraft pick immediately looked up and found Tablante darting toward the back post. Lynn slid the pass across the top of the six for Tablante, who calmly put away the opening goal.
“I was thinking that if it came to me, to stay calm and move my feet,” Tablante said about his goal. “And hopefully I get more goals this year.”
The Young Lions nearly doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when Diego Pareja chipped the ball in for Rivera running through. Unfortunately, the ball was just beyond Rivera’s reach and nothing came of the chance.
NYCFC II came close again in the 33rd minute when a free kick ended up at the foot of Kenan Hot. Rather than sending a cross into the box, Hot decided to take a chance on goal. The shot appeared to be headed to the far corner, but just went just wide of the post.
After multiple near chances by both teams, the goals started flooding in late in the first half. In the 35th minute, Nick Taylor took down Jonathan Jimenez in the box, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.
John Denis stepped up to take the kick and sent OCB goalkeeper Javier Otero the wrong way, tying the game up at 1-1.
It didn’t take long for the Young Lions to respond. Just two minutes later, Freeman made a run down the right and sent a low cross into the box. It looked like Nicholas Benalcazar would clear, but Tablante stepped in front. Benalcazar hit the back of Tablante’s leg and the referee pointed to the spot again.
OCB’s spot kick ended up the same as the one on the other end. Boccuzzo sent Rando the wrong way, putting the Young Lions back on top.
OCB almost got a third goal in the 41st minute when Rivera sent a low cross into the box. Rando was unable to gather the ball and it skipped into free space. Unfortunately, no OCB players were there to put it away and NYCFC II was able to clear.
In the 44th minute, Rivera got taken down just outside the NYCFC II box, giving the Young Lions another great chance. Tablante took the shot, which appeared to be headed just inside the post, but Rando did well to make the diving stop.
With just two minutes added to the first half, it looked as though OCB would take a lead into the break. However, NYCFC II struck a second time just before the end of the first half. Stephen Turnbull sent Hot toward the corner with the midfielder collecting the ball near the box.
A nice touch by Hot got him past Williams and provided enough space to shoot. Brandon Hackenberg attempted to make a late diving block, but the ball went between his legs and towards the far corner. Otero got his fingers to the ball, but it wasn’t enough as NCYFC II scored the equalizer just before halftime.
Great move from Kenan Hot and NYCFC II level it on the brink of halftime!— MLS NEXT Pro (@MLSNEXTPRO) April 3, 2022
2-2 with 45' to go. pic.twitter.com/7sSPk52mPn
While OCB was disappointed to concede an equalizer just before the half, it was fortunate to even be tied. NYCFC II dominated the first 45 minutes, leading in possession (58%-42%), shots (12-4), shots on target (7-3), passes (178-135) and passing accuracy (78.7%-73.3%).
NYCFC II got off to the better first half start, but OCB was the aggressor to begin the second 45 minutes. In the 48th minute, Freeman found Rivera in front of goal but the dangerous midfielder missed to the right of the target.
Three minutes later, a Rivera free kick found the head of Lynn. After scoring a brace in the first game of the season, the rookie was unable to redirect the header on goal, sending it over the crossbar.
The Young Lions started the second half in a positive way but nearly made a crucial error in the 54th minute. Attempting to play the ball out of the back, Williams gave the ball away to Massimo Murania Yankowitz at the top of the box. The NYCFC academy product quickly shot on goal but it was blocked, allowing OCB to clear.
In the 55th minute, NYCFC II came inches away from taking its first lead of the game. Jimenez found Stevo Bednarsky in the box and the midfielder attempted to beat Otero to his near post. The ball got past the OCB goalkeeper but pinged off the crossbar.
OCB almost made another costly mistake in the 59th minute when Rivera slipped as the Young Lions attempted to play out of the back. NYCFC II quickly took advantage as Hot found Yankowitz in the box. The midfielder was looking for the far corner, but Otero made a great save with his foot, keeping the game even at 2-2.
NYCFC II nearly made a similar error to give OCB a chance in the 65th minute. The NYCFC II center back was backpedaling in an attempt to send a DeZart clearance back up field. But he tripped over his own feet, resulting in a footrace between Rivera and Rando. Unfortunately, Rando got to the ball first and was able to send it away.
In the 71st minute, NYCFC II had another opportunity. As they closed in on Otero from the left, Freeman made up ground and slid in to make a game-saving tackle. The final 20 minutes were chippy, with both teams being booked, but neither team could create solid chances and the game ended 2-2.
Despite the score, it was a dominant performance by NYCFC II. The visitors ended the game with far more possession (62.6%-37.4%), shots (22-8), shots on target (9-3), passes (388-239), corners (15-2), and crosses (18-5).
The difference between a 2-2 draw and a dominating NYCFC II win was that the hosts were able to convert on a greater percentage of opportunities and come up with some key blocks. The notable stat to explain the draw was how many more blocks OCB had than the opposition (8-2).
“It was a match where we played against a young team because they came with young players.” Perelman said after the game. “They had a lot of energy. In the first half we did great, we did a good job. We can do better, but it was a good half and in the second half they were better than us, so the draw is okay.”
While the 90 minutes ended in a 2-2 draw, that wasn’t the end of the game. MLS is using its new developmental league to try out new ideas. One of those ideas is a penalty shootout following a draw. Similar to old MLS games, each team gets a point and the winner of the shootout gets an extra point.
NYCFC II shot first and the first five shots were scored, giving the visitors a 3-2 lead. DeZart then stepped up and his shot was saved by Rando. After Benalcazar and Lynn converted, the Young Lions needed Otero to keep them in the game. The young goalkeeper was up to the challenge, saving Turnbull’s shot.
Similar to Orlando City’s win over NYCFC in the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, Lions streamed onto the field to congratulate Otero. However, to send the shootout to extra kicks, OCB had to convert one more time. Second-half substitute Liam Guske took that responsibility and put away the tying penalty.
Bednarsky was the next to kick for NYCFC II and Otero made his second consecutive save in the shootout. That gave Tablante the chance to win it. The OCB veteran didn’t miss the opportunity, sending Rando the wrong way and securing the extra point.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this in my life,” Perelman said of the regular-season shootout. “I’m 35 years old and 30 years in football and I’ve never seen something like this, so for me it’s also new. It’s strange, but it’s the league and we accept it and we are happy to take this point.”
“We’ve been training all week for that,” Tablante added. “I’ve been training myself and I scored, so thank God.”
After years of sitting near the bottom of multiple leagues, the Young Lions now sit near the top of the MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference after the first two games. Their five points are tied for first with New England Revolution II and two points ahead of Inter Miami 2, Philadelphia Union II, FC Cincinnati 2, and Columbus Crew 2.
OCB will now make its first road trip of the season, traveling to Fort Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami II next Sunday and to Ohio to face Crew 2 on April 15. The Young Lions will then return home for a doubleheader with the senior team at Exploria Stadium on April 24.