Kissimmee — Despite being down to nine men at the end of the game, Orlando City B (6-10-4, 24 points) held on to draw first-place Columbus Crew 2 (13-3-4, 44 points) 2-2 at Osceola County Stadium. Columbus took the early lead with a seventh-minute penalty by Isaiah Parente but Moises Tablante equalized in the 19th minute. OCB then took the lead with its own penalty in the 25th minute through Neicer Acosta, but Crew 2 equalized late with a goal by Marco Micaletto.
As per MLS NEXT Pro rules, the draw went to penalties to see who received the extra point. The visitors took the shootout 3-1 with two saves by Crew 2 goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, claiming two points on the night while the Young Lions took home one.
With the first team in Charlotte to play Sunday night, the OCB roster was back to normal for this game. Only Thomas Williams and Ignacio Galvan returned to the lineup from Wednesday night. Erick Gunera started the game against Rochester but was on the bench for this one. The back four in front of Javier Otero was Alex Freeman, Andrew Forth, Williams, and Galvan. Diego Pareja, Nick Taylor, Victor Yan, Tablante, and Acosta made up the midfield with Favian Loyola starting up top.
It didn’t take long for the scoring to start in this game. In the sixth minute, Mohamed Farsi carried the ball into the box. He played a quick one-two with Parente and went down from contact with Williams after receiving the return ball. Referee Abdou Ndiaye didn’t waste any time pointing to the spot, awarding Crew 2 a penalty.
Parente stepped up to the spot and sent Otero the wrong way, giving the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
MLS NEXT Pro’s co-leading goal scorer, Jacen Russell-Rowe, got his first chance of the game in the 11th minute. Sean Zawadzki found the striker in the box and the shot was on target but Otero did well to push it away and keep the deficit at one.
OCB got its first real chance in the 17th minute when Freeman made a good run into the box. He beat one defender but not Ryan Telfer, who knocked it away. However, the ball ended up at the feet of Acosta, who shot from the top of the box. This time Crew 2 goalkeeper Schulte was there to block it.
OCB found an equalizer two minutes later. In the 19th minute, it started in the back with Williams, who made a good run to midfield and then played a beautiful ball out right for Acosta. After bringing the ball down nicely, Acosta played it across for Tablante, who had gotten behind the Crew 2 defense. The Orlando City academy product’s first touch was behind Schulte to even the game at 1-1.
“I’m glad I scored that goal from the pass from Neicer,” Tablante said about his goal. “I think we needed that goal. We deserved that goal.”
Just six minutes later, the Young Lions took the lead. Forth sent Freeman down the right with a nice ball. The right back quickly saw Tablante making a run into the Crew 2 box and towards the near post. Abdirizak Mohamed took down the attacker and, after a brief hesitation, Ndiaye pointed to the spot for the second time in the game.
Acosta immediately went to the spot, ensuring that he would be the one taking the kick. Schulte guessed right and even got his hands to the ball, but it was a strong penalty by Acosta and went into the roof of the net, giving OCB a 2-1 lead.
“I just wanted Neicer to score because he’s been having a bad time in his life,” Tablante said about giving Acosta the penalty, referring to the fact that Acosta recently lost his father. “I just told him to hit it and I’m glad that he scored.”
In the 28th minute, Forth sent a long ball for Loyola that saw the teenager get behind the Crew 2 defense. The referee blew his whistle for offside but Loyola shot anyway, resulting in a booking. During the play, Acosta went down holding his right leg. After receiving medical attention for a couple of minutes, it was determined that he couldn’t continue and Ethan Subachan took his place. It was a tough blow for the Young Lions, as Acosta had been one of the team’s biggest attacking threats through the first half hour of play.
OCB tested Schulte in the 33rd minute when Loyola was sent through towards goal. The Columbus goalkeeper came out of his box to head the ball away, but it went right to Tablante about 45 yards away from goal. The forward attempted to beat the diving Schulte, still well off his line, but the ball rolled just wide.
Crew 2 nearly equalized in the 37th minute when Tablante fouled Russell-Rowe outside of the left side of the box. Noah Fuson’s free kick found Mohamed at the back post and he got his head to the ball but sent it just wide.
A minute later, OCB should’ve scored a third when Yan found Tablante in the box. Tablante made a good move to beat his defender, but lost control before getting a shot off, allowing Schulte to collect.
In the 41st minute, Farsi found Russell-Rowe in the box. It appeared as though the league’s joint-leading goal scorer would tally another, but Willaims did well to challenge the striker and he sent the shot over the crossbar.
A minute into injury time, Crew 2 came even closer to evening up the game. Farsi found Fuson in the box and the forward quickly turned and shot on goal. Fortunately for OCB, the hard shot went just wide. Had the ball been on target, Otero wouldn’t have had a chance to get to the ball before it hit the back of the net.
At halftime, Columbus had more possession (57.8%-42.2%), shots (10-7), corners (4-1), and crosses (7-1). But both teams had three shots on target and, most importantly, OCB held onto a 2-1 lead at the break.
“It’s good because that wasn’t a penalty for me. I need to check it again but I think it’s not so we knew it was unfair,” OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman said about his team’s response to the early goal. “And the team never lost focus. So we kept working and we control the last 10 minutes of the first half.”
OCB got the first chance of the second half and nearly scored a third goal. Galvan sent the ball long for Subachan, who attempted to flick the ball behind Schulte from the top of the box. The ball got past the diving goalkeeper and rolled slowly toward the goal. Schulte watched helplessly as the ball softly bounced off the post, allowing Columbus to clear.
Following that chance by OCB, Crew 2 began to dominate possession and the chances. In the 51st minute, Parente found Fuson behind the OCB defense and to the left of goal. He shot for the far post but the ball went just wide.
Russell-Rowe had another good chance to equalize in the 57th minute when Farsi found him at the penalty spot. The striker fired, but the ball went over the crossbar.
In the 62nd minute, a flurry in front of goal nearly resulted in Columbus finding an equalizer. Shots by Russell-Rowe and Fuson were blocked, before Parente found Telfer at the top of the six-yard box. Otero was pulled off his line by the second shot, leaving an open goal. Fortunately, the third shot was blocked by a sliding Tyler Prebenda, who had come on eight minutes earlier, allowing OCB to keep a one-goal lead.
Crew 2 had dominated for nearly 15 minutes, but OCB nearly scored again in the 71st minute. Tablante made a nice run into the Crew 2 box and was played through. He quickly shot on goal but Schulte did well to get down to make the stop with his leg.
With the OCB players forward, Crew 2 nearly found the equalizer in the 74th minute on a counter attack. Zawadzki found Fuson behind the Young Lions’ defense and the attacker got into the box. He shot towards the far post but Otero did well to tip it wide.
After several second-half chances, Columbus finally found an equalizing goal in the 76th minute. Russell-Rowe found Farsi on the right side and he sent the ball in for Micaletto. Prebenda got a touch to the ball but couldn’t clear and Micaletto slammed it into the roof of the net to make the score 2-2.
OCB nearly took the lead back in the 83rd minute. Gunera found Subachan making a run down the left side. Schulte was well out of his net, leaving a wide open net for Subachan. He sent the ball towards goal and it looked to be heading in but Daniel Strachan slid in out of nowhere to block it away right before it got to the goal line.
Things started to unravel for OCB in the 85th minute. Subachan was given a yellow card for a challenge and then was booked a second time in less than a minute for arguing the call. As a result, the Young Lions went down to 10 men.
It got worse for OCB five minutes later. Tablante had been booked for a foul in the 35th minute and received his second booking in the 90th. The referee was far away from Tablante as he and a Crew 2 defender had words. Columbus players immediately ran to the referee yelling, “That’s his second.” The referee took the advice from the Crew 2 players and issued Tablante his second yellow, leaving OCB with nine men.
The visitors nearly took all three points three minutes into injury time. Zawadzki shot from the left of goal and Otero made a diving one-handed save. The ball was quickly sent back on goal but Galvan came flying in to block the shot away, keeping the score at 2-2.
A foul on Columbus allowed OCB to clear and the referee blew the final whistle, ending the game. However, MLS NEXT Pro rules state that any game that ends in a draw will have an extra point decided by penalties.
Mohamed stepped up to open the shootout for Crew 2 and sent the ball over the crossbar. Taylor then stepped up to take the first penalty for OCB, but he too sent his shot over the crossbar.
The hero of the shootout was Schulte, who made two saves. Russell-Rowe, Michael Vang, and Parente scored for Columbus and Freeman converted into the corner for OCB. But Schulte was able to make saves on Galvan and Gunera to secure the extra point for Columbus.
Columbus dominated the 90 minutes statistically, ending with more possession (60.6%-39.4%), shots (30-12), shots on goal (7-5), corners (13-4), and crosses (17-3). The Crew also were more accurate passers (82.6%-74.5%), but heroic defending kept the Young Lions in the game, allowing them to claim a point.
“We had a great effort, a big one,” Perelman said after the game. “We were close to a win, but unfortunately we couldn’t. We missed some goals. I don’t want to speak about the referee. Second half, everyone saw what happened on the field and then they scored and penalties are penalties but we’re happy because we are playing with really, really young players and they’re growing. They’re growing and competing with senior players. We are proud of our players.”
“I think the team was great,” Tablante added. Playing against the first in the league is hard and I think we dominated them. I think we played an amazing game. Maybe the ref didn’t help us in the way that we wanted him to. But we played great. And we didn’t get the three points but we got one point and that’s good.”
The point allows OCB to remain in eighth place in the 10-team Eastern Conference. They also remain in third place in the five-team Central Division.
OCB will take the field again on Aug. 29 when FC Cincinnati 2 comes to Osceola County Stadium.