Orlando City B (2-3-2, 10 points) dominated Inter Miami II (3-5-1, 10 points) on the way to a 6-0 win. It was the most goals that OCB has ever scored in a game, dating back to the team’s inaugural 2016 season. Jack Lynn scored a hat trick of goals and Moises Tablante had a hat trick of assists, while Wilfredo Rivera, Brandon Hackenberg, and Victor Yan added a goal apiece.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Philadelphia Union II on Monday. Liam Guske and Ian Silva were replaced by Hackenberg and Lynn. Additionally, Neicer Acosta was out with a lower leg injury and was replaced in the starting lineup by Erick Gunera, who returned from suspension.
The Young Lions had the better start to the game. In the third minute, Rivera had Tablante making a run across the field. The Homegrown midfielder tried to play it over but there was too much bend on it and it went out of play for a goal kick.
Two minutes later, Rivera sent a free kick to the far side of the box for Alex Freeman. The right back headed it toward the penalty spot where Yan got his foot to the ball. But he was unable to get his body over it and the ball went well high of the goal.
That was the last play for a while as inclement weather entered the area. A brief alarm halted play. Then, after a brief consultation, referee Anya Voigt signaled for the two teams to return to their locker rooms and the game went into an extended delay of almost an hour.
“We played soccer tennis in the locker room,” Perelman said about how his team passed the time. “I played with them. So it’s funny, I liked that time.”
“I think that’s something everyone does a bit differently,” Lynn added. “You know, some people, like myself, I like to just kind of sit down and conserve energy because you don’t know how long it’s gonna be. You don’t want to burn yourself out. And then other people want to stay active and keep their energy up. So kind of an individual thing, but I think everyone managed themselves correctly. And when we came out, I think our energy levels were still high. So, that was good.”
The Young Lions didn’t let up when the game restarted. In the eighth minute, some slick dribbling by David Boccuzzo provided some space, but the ball was knocked away. However, it went right to Tablante, who found Lynn in front of goal. The first-team player put his first touch past Inter Miami II goalkeeper CJ dos Santos for the early lead.
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OCB sent several long balls to the outside, looking to connect with Rivera or Tablante. In the 12th minute, one of those passes nearly put Rivera in on goal, but it was a bit too far and the midfielder was unable to reach it as it went out of play.
A nearly identical attempt occurred in the 20th minute when a long ball was sent for Tablante. But it was the same result, as the ball was too strong and went out of play for a Miami goal kick.
However, just a minute later, Yan found Rivera at the top right corner of the box. Rivera dribbled across the box, looking for Tablante or Lynn near goal. But the Miami players kept giving the young midfielder space, allowing him to create his own shot. His shot went into the bottom right corner of the goal, beyond the outstretched arms of dos Santos, doubling the OCB lead.
LEFT FOOT MAGIC! ✨ ✨
Wilfredo Rivera makes it 2️⃣! 👏 pic.twitter.com/fy4gYwEfIu
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While OCB had a commanding 2-0 lead, the team didn’t let up. This effort was shown in the 24th minute when Lynn pressured a Miami goal kick. While the rookie didn’t win the ball, he made it difficult for the visitors to get out of their own box and nearly did win it back for the Young Lions.
In the 25th minute, Lynn received a long ball in the OCB box. He looked to create some space to get a shot off, but took too long and ended up dribbling the ball out of play.
Two minutes later, Boccuzzo found Freeman to the right of goal. The right back was able to get behind the Miami defense and get a shot off, but the defender did well to block it and the ball went into the side netting for a corner kick.
The ensuing corner was taken short by Rivera to Tablante. Playing his third season for OCB, Tablante carried the ball into the box and took a shot, but it hit the side of the net.
OCB finally got its third goal in the 31st minute. After a Lynn shot was blocked out of play, Tablante played the corner kick short to Rivera. His cross was to the back post where Hackenberg — in his first game back in the starting lineup — jumped over the defender and headed it in.
Brandon Hackenberg finds the back post for the third! 👊 pic.twitter.com/sHjHaHTTXA
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“It was a set piece and, especially this game, head coach was saying the number one priority was to do it on set pieces,” Hackenberg said about his goal. “So they hit one of our players and then Fredo (Rivera) just chipped the ball to the back post and I just saw the ball come in and went on and attacked it.”
Yan attempted to get in on the action by creating space to the right and shooting on goal. However, his low shot was from a difficult angle and dos Santos got down to make the stop.
In the 37th minute, Freeman found Gunera at the top of the box. The midfielder’s first shot was blocked but the ball went right back to him. He immediately fired again but that shot was also blocked and Miami was able to clear.
The OCB onslaught continued in the 38th minute when some nifty footwork by Tablante created a shot, but it was blocked. The rebound went right to Ignacio Galvan, who sent the ball way over the target.
Inter Miami II didn’t get an opportunity on goal until the 41st minute. Noah Allen received the ball on the left and quickly attempted to shoot, but he sent the ball straight instead of towards goal and it went out of play without any trouble for Javier Otero.
It went from bad to worse for Miami a minute into injury time. After getting booked in the 42nd minute, Ethan Hardin committed his second hard challenge. As a result, Voigt gave him his second yellow card, reducing the visitors to 10 men.
The ensuing free kick saw the Young Lions nearly create their final chance of the half. Lynn headed the free kick for Freeman, but he sent the ball right at dos Santos, who made the easy save.
OCB was dominant in the first half, with more possession (54.7%-45.3%), shots (14-1), shots on goal (6-0), and corners (5-0). Additionally, the Young Lions were more accurate with their passes (87%-82.2%) and more aggressive, winning more duels (29-23) and tackles (6-2).
The Young Lions continued their domination into the second half. In the 48th minute, Gunera tried to find a teammate with a long cross, but dos Santos did well to come off his line to collect it. Hackenberg then attempted a cross in the 53rd minute, but again it was too close to dos Santos.
The first shot of the half came in the 58th minute when Nick Taylor set up Lynn. The forward was able to take an accurate shot, but dos Santos was there to make the save. Lynn had another opportunity in the 61st minute when Gunera fed him the ball. This time, Lynn was unable to get his shot on target as it missed to the left.
Two minutes later, OCB made it 4-0. Tablante, who had been dangerous all night on the left, sent a low cross into the box. Lynn received it right in front of goal with no defenders in front of him. It was an easy finish for the striker, scoring his second of the game.
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In the 64th minute, Taylor set up Lynn again at the top of the box. He was looking for the hat trick but the ball was blocked and went over the crossbar.
A minute later, Tablante got in behind the Miami defense. The midfielder spent most of the night setting up teammates from the left, but this time took the chance himself. However, his shot was right at dos Santos and the Miami goalkeeper made the stop.
Inter Miami II finally got a shot of its own in the 71st minute through Romeo Beckham. The midfielder attempted to shoot from the right of goal, but Hackenberg was right there. The rebound went back to Beckham, but Hackenberg made a second consecutive block, allowing the Young Lions to clear.
A minute later, Able Caputo got a shot off for Miami. It was Inter Miami II’s second shot of the second half, doubling their output in the first 45 minutes. However, like the other shots, this one was from far out and went well high of the target.
The game was well in hand for OCB but the Young Lions scored a fifth in the 74th minute. Freeman set up Yan at the top of the box and the 21-year-old Brazilian put it into the top corner. Dos Santos made his best attempt to reach the ball, but he couldn’t get anywhere near it as OCB went up 5-0.
UP AND OVER THE KEEPER! 😱
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The final 15 minutes was more about getting the game in than the result, as lightning was visible in the distance. Inter Miami II was trying to get anything it could on goal as the visitors weren’t getting good looks. Braxton Taghavi-Najib took a shot in the 79th minute from way out, but it was nowhere close, going well above the goal.
In the 81st minute, Tablante set up Hackenberg near the penalty spot but the defender’s attempt was well high. Two minutes later, Tablante set up Freeman just outside the six-yard box and the right back’s shot was just off target.
OCB got its sixth and final goal in the 85th minute. Tablante found Lynn just outside the box and the forward put it in the bottom right corner. It was a hat trick of goals for Lynn and a hat trick of assists for Tablante as the duo combined for three of the six conversions. It’s the first time any player for OCB has had three goals or three assists in a game.
HAT TRICK ALERT!!! 🎩🎩🎩 pic.twitter.com/FrgKJlpLLx
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The best chance of the night for Miami came in the 88th minute when Tyler Bagley found David Ruiz and the latter got a shot on goal. It beat Otero, one of only two times when the OCB goalkeeper was challenged, but Quembol Guadelupe was there to clear it off the line, keeping the clean sheet.
Despite bookings and goals, the game was well in hand when 90 minutes were up. So with a storm rushing in, the referee blew the final whistle and OCB ended its dominance over Inter Miami II, 6-0.
“We had a couple tough games. The last few games (were) kind of hard for us to get on the board,” Lynn said after the game. “So it feels great to come out and get six tonight.”
In the end, OCB had more possession (57%-43%), shots (22-5), shots on goal (10-1), corners (6-5), and crosses (13-12). The Young Lions also had a better passing accuracy (88%-81.7%), won more duels (47-37), and won more tackles (11-5).
“I’m really happy about our players,” Perelman said after the game. “They have been doing a great effort all this month. They are growing up, as I usually say, and I think they deserve this. At home, six goals, I think it’s fantastic for them. I’m really happy.”
“Coach talked to us about just continuing to build on our performances,” Lynn added. “We had the majority of the possession in the last few games but had a hard time actually creating chances. And I think that was kind of the focus of this week was how do we execute in the final third.”
While most of the focus will be on the six goals, the team was also proud of its clean sheet. It’s the third shutout of the season for OCB and its first since April 24 against New England Revolution II at Exploria Stadium.
“For us, it’s so important to have a clean sheet. Always,” Perelman said. “We do too much effort for preventions and try to attack and defend with the ball. And today we were able to do it. So great job (by) our players.”
“That was what coach wanted, us to get a clean sheet, so happy about that,” Hackenberg added. “I think it was just a combination of our communication between Boccuzzo, Andrew Forth, and myself. When we were in our low block, the three of us kind of worked together to stop the production and everything. And I also think — just just putting in the work and tracking the runs and pressing to the best of our ability, and I think everyone did a good job of that tonight.”
The team also was able to defeat a rival, something that will matter to the fans. But for the players, it was getting revenge after they felt they should’ve done better in the first meeting, a 2-0 loss in Fort Lauderdale.
“Especially because they beat us earlier in the year, I think we all wanted to come in and show that we’re better,” Lynn said. “I think we all thought we were the better team that game (in Fort Lauderdale) and, again, we wanted to come out tonight and prove it on our home turf.”
The Young Lions will look to follow up their best performance of the season when they host FC Cincinnati 2 next Sunday at Osceola County Stadium.
Orlando City B Forward Jack Lynn Named MLS NEXT Pro MVP
Jack Lynn has been named the MLS NEXT Pro MVP, the first time an OCB player has received the award.
MLS NEXT Pro announced today that Orlando City B striker Jack Lynn has been named the league’s Most Valuable Player. The forward’s 19 goals saw the second-year professional claim the Golden Boot alongside Colorado Rapids 2’s Remi Cabral and NYCFC II’s MD Myers.
Moving between the first team and OCB, Lynn took part in 26 of the team’s 28 regular-season games in 2023, starting 19 and recording 1,760 minutes. He came close to netting the first hat trick in OCB history, recording a brace five times this season. He had also already been named to the MLS NEXT Pro Best XI team, receiving that honor for the second consecutive season. While he wasn’t named Player of the Matchday at any point this year, he scored the Goal of the Matchday against Chicago Fire II on Matchday 18.
The striker found most of his success this year inside of the 18-yard box, scoring 16 of his 19 goals inside the area. He scored his 19 goals in 72 shots, converting the same number in fewer attempts than Cabral (76) and Myers (90) for a better conversion rate.
Lynn was an essential part of an OCB team that qualified for the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs for the first time and participated in the postseason for the second time in team history. Prior to the team’s fifth-place finish, the Young Lions had only made the playoffs during the 2016 USL season. In addition to becoming the second OCB team to make the playoffs, the squad’s 46 points is the highest point total and points per game (1.64) in team history.
The striker came into this season after scoring 15 goals in 2022, passing Michael Cox’s 11-goal 2016 season and setting the team’s single-season record. His rookie season performance resulted in Lynn being named an MVP finalist, Golden Boot runner up, and member of the Best XI team a season ago. His 35 goals over the past two seasons is the highest in MLS NEXT Pro’s two-season history.
Lynn joined Orlando City as its first-round draft pick (18th overall) in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Notre Dame. He made three first-team appearances in 2022 and three more in 2023, primarily playing for the club’s reserve side. He also went on loan to San Antonio FC of the USL Championship following the conclusion of the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season.
Orlando City B vs. Columbus Crew 2: Final Score 2-1 as Young Lions Bow Out of Playoffs
OCB fought valiantly for most of the game, but the Young Lions conceded two penalties and that allowed the hosts to get the win.
Orlando City B’s 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season came to an end tonight in Ohio with a 2-1 loss to Columbus Crew 2 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Young Lions responded to a first-half Noah Fuson goal on the rebound of a saved penalty with a strike by Franco Perez. But a second penalty was converted in second-half stoppage time by Marco Micaletto, ending the year for the Young Lions.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made two changes from the team’s 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati 2 in the regular-season finale. Thomas Williams and Shak Mohammed entered the starting lineup in place of Abdi Salim and Wilfredo Rivera. Salim and Rivera were with the team in Ohio, starting on the bench.
The back line in front of Javier Otero was Perez, Williams, Nabi Kibunguchy, and Imanol Almaguer. Jhon Solis, Juninho, Cristian Medina, and Alex Freeman were in the midfield with Mohammed and Jack Lynn up top.
Like much of the season, this was a game of two halves for OCB. Columbus was the better team in the first 45 minutes and the Young Lions came out flying in the second half. Unfortunately, they couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities. A wild end of the game resulted in three red cards and a penalty, enabling the hosts to grab a late winner.
As expected, the hosts immediately went on the attack and created a couple of free kick opportunities. However, neither resulted in shots, enabling OCB to head the other way.
The Young Lions got the game’s first shot in the seventh minute when Perez found Lynn in the box with a long throw. It was a little too high for the MLS NEXT Pro golden boot winner and was easily caught by Crew 2 goalkeeper Stanislav Lapkes.
The hosts should’ve opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Jordan Knight’s low ball towards the top of the six-yard box was cleared out by Kibunguchy for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece by Coleman Gannon went over Otero, who badly misjudged it, and found the head of Micaletto, who was left wide open at the far post. Fortunately, the Crew 2 captain couldn’t get over the ball and sent it over the target from point-blank range.
The Young Lions had a great chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when they won possession in their own end and broke the other way. Freeman took off with Lynn making a run alongside Crew 2’s last defender. Eventually, Freeman sent Lynn into the box and the striker got a shot off, but Lapkes did well to come off his line and block it with his foot.
After the ensuing throw-in was cleared out by Gibran Rayo for a corner kick, Juninho ended up with the ball outside of the box. He sent a curling ball towards the far post, but it was too close to Lapkes, who easily caught it.
In the 20th minute, OCB’s high press resulted in a turnover in the Crew 2 third. Solis carried the ball into the box and lifted it over the head of Lapkes. Lynn was making a run to the back post, but couldn’t reach it and the ball went out of play.
Crew 2 had an opportunity in the 26th minute, when Perez fouled Fuson just outside of the OCB box. Gannon’s free kick was cleared out, but only to Fuson. The midfielder took a long-distance shot, sending it right to Otero.
The hosts broke the deadlock in the 31st minute when Rayo cut inside from the right to get into the box. Juninho came in from behind and attempted a shoulder challenge, resulting in Rayo going down. Referee Abdou Ndiaye immediately pointed to the spot, awarding Crew 2 a penalty kick.
Rayo stepped up to the spot and sent the attempt to the left corner, but Otero guessed correctly and blocked it. Unfortunately, the Young Lions were slow to respond, allowing Fuson and Rayo to reach the free ball. Both attempted to send it on goal and Otero had no chance as the hosts took a 1-0 lead.
Fuson and Rayo celebrated the goal as if they’d scored, but Fuson was determined to have gotten the last touch.
Rather than falling apart, OCB responded well and found a quick equalizer. In the 37th minute, a long ball by Almaguer down the right for Freeman was played back to Mohammed. The forward spotted Perez making an overlapping run to his left and sent him into the Crew 2 box. Perez hit the ball as hard as he could and on target, giving Lapkes no chance to stop it.
In the 44th minute, Rayo was sent behind the OCB defense on the right side of the box. The midfielder shot from a tight angle, but Otero got down to block it away with his foot.
The half ended with a little bit of controversy as the referee allowed the game to continue beyond the one added minute while Crew 2 continued their attack. OCB won possession and began to break the other way with numbers, but Ndiaye ended the half. Lynn and Medina questioned the official about the decision, but to no avail as the half ended at 1-1.
OCB had slightly more possession in the first 45 minutes (50.2%-49.8%), but Crew 2 had more chances, taking more shots (6-3) and putting more on target (4-3). Additionally, Crew 2 had more crosses (8-4). OCB passed more accurately (87.4%-84.5%), and both teams had two corner kicks.
The Young Lions had the first second-half opportunity when Perez played the ball past Fuson and was pulled down. The free kick was to an open Perez on the right side of the box, but the left back couldn’t control it. It was fortunate for the hosts because Perez would’ve had a chance at goal.
OCB had another opportunity in the 54th minute when Williams sent a long ball for Perez on the left. He had Mohammed making a run down the middle of the field, but the cross was too far in front and went all the way through the box.
Crew 2 was unable to get the ball out of its own end due to the high press and OCB won possession. Rayo immediately fouled Almaguer and was booked for the challenge. The ensuing free kick by Almaguer found the head of Solis in the box, but his flick towards goal went wide of the far post.
In the 67th minute, Perez was sent down the left again. Crew 2 hadn’t been covering the middle of the box during similar plays, but nobody had been filling that space. This time, Mohammed was there and Perez attempted to lay it back for him. Unfortunately, it was blocked out of play by Abdi Mohamed. The corner kick by Solis found Juninho, but the captain’s shot was off target.
Perelman made a surprising change after the miss, OCB’s first substitution of the game. Despite a 1-1 score, Lynn, the team’s all-time leading scorer, was replaced by Rivera.
In the 72nd minute, Juninho lifted a ball behind the Crew 2 defense for Mohammed. The forward reached it before it got to the end line and played it across the face of goal. He was looking for Rivera, but the substitute had stopped his run and the ball went harmlessly through the box.
Perelman made two more changes in the 75th minute. Moises Tablante and Cristofer Acuna entered the game for Perez and Mohammed.
In the 88th minute, a bad pass out of the back was intercepted by Thomas Roberts, a late second-half substitute. The midfielder dribbled into the OCB box and was taken down by Juninho. Ndiaye didn’t hesitate to point to the spot for the second time in the game, giving the hosts their second penalty.
Emotions overheated after the decision with plenty of pushing and shoving between the two teams. Eventually, Ndiaye issued red cards to Acuna and Rayo, putting both teams down to 10 men.
When everything settled down, Micaletto stepped up to take the penalty. The Crew 2 captain sent Otero the wrong way, putting it into the corner and giving Crew 2 a late 2-1 lead.
The fourth official showed seven added minutes, providing OCB with plenty of time to find a second equalizer. However, Perelman inexplicably sent his goalkeeper up to the Crew 2 box with several minutes remaining.
The Young Lions lost possession in the Crew 2 box and the hosts started to head the other way. Otero, who had already been booked just before the second penalty, fouled Mataeo Bunbury from behind. Ndiaye pulled out his yellow card, sending Otero off and limiting the Young Lions to nine men.
As a result, Perelman had to make one final substitution to bring on back up goalkeeper Dominic Pereira. The unfortunate player making way was Freeman. Down a man and a goal, OCB was only able to create one last chance in the ninth minute of stoppage time. Solis found Rivera in the box, but it was over the goal. That was the last chance of the game as the Young Lions’ 2023 season came to an end.
At full time, Crew 2 had more possession (53.5%-46.5%), shots (10-7), shots on target (5-3), corner kicks (7-5), and crosses (11-10), and passed more accurately (88%-84.8%). Despite trailing in the statistics, the Young Lions had chances to win the game and a bad pass out of the back and a pair of fouls in the area by their captain ended their season.
While the ending to the season is disappointing, 2023 was OCB’s best campaign in its six-year history. The Young Lions ended the regular season on 46 points, the most in team history. Their fifth-place finish was also their best in team history, and they qualified for a postseason for the second time.
Orlando City B vs. FC Cincinnati 2: Final Score 2-1 as OCB Clinches Fifth in Eastern Conference with Home Win
OCB closed out the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season with a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati 2 in Kissimmee.
KISSIMMEE — Orlando City B (13-10-5, 46 points) beat FC Cincinnati 2 (7-17-4, 27 points) 2-1 in its regular-season finale at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee this afternoon. Jack Lynn gave OCB the lead in the 16th minute with his league-leading 19th goal of the season. Ryan Belal equalized in the 61st minute, but Shak Mohammed scored shortly after, netting the winning goal. The win secures the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro playoffs.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Chicago Fire II on Sept. 15. Abdi Salim and Lynn returned to OCB from the first team and were joined in the lineup by Wilfredo Rivera. They replaced Thomas Williams, Moises Tablante, and Mohammed.
The back line in front of goalkeeper Javier Otero was Imanol Almaguer, Nabi Kibunguchy, Salim, and Franco Perez. Alex Freeman, Cristian Medina, Juninho, and Jhon Solis were in the midfield with Rivera and Lynn up top.
OCB dominated this game from the start, creating far more chances than Cincinnati. The Young Lions should have put the game away in the first half, but let the visitors hang around. It looked like they would pay for that when Cincinnati found an equalizer in the second half. But an inspired substitution right after the goal resulted in a quick response and the winning strike.
As usual, the Young Lions tried to get off to a fast start. Solis played Perez down the left inside the first minute with Lynn and Rivera making runs into the box. It was hard to tell if Perez was trying to shoot or cross, but he sent the ball wide of the near post.
OCB had its second chance of the game in the sixth minute when Salim Adams fouled Juninho near the top of the Cincinnati box. The OCB captain stood over the ball with Medina before Juninho stepped up to take the kick. He got the ball over the wall, but it was into the arms of Cincinnati goalkeeper Hunter Morse.
In the 10th minute, Nicholas McHenry cleared the ball out of play, giving OCB another chance from the corner. Perez’s set piece found the head of Kibunguchy in the box, but the center back couldn’t get over it, sending the attempt over the crossbar.
The visitors got their first chance of the game in the 13th minute when Gerardo Valenzuela took a long-distance shot from well outside of the box. It didn’t cause any trouble for Otero, going well over the goal.
The Young Lions finally converted in the 16th minute. Haroun Conteh fouled Perez to the left of goal and about 25 yards away. Rivera stepped up to take the set piece, sending the cross to the top of the six-yard box where Lynn outjumped everyone, reaching it first and heading it past Morse to give OCB the 1-0 lead.
The goal was Lynn’s 19th of the season, passing NYCFC II’s Matt Myers to give the striker the MLS NEXT Pro golden boot lead, although Myers went on to score from the penalty spot in his team’s win over Inter Miami 2.
“My teammates are putting me in good positions to score,” Lynn said about his 19 goals. “That’s the most important thing.”
OCB nearly had another goal two minutes later when Juninho was sent behind the Cincinnati defense. He took a couple of touches before unleashing a shot, but those touches provided enough time for a defender to slide in and block it away.
Cincinnati had trouble gaining possession in the OCB half during the first 20 minutes, but Adams found space for a pair of long-distance shots in the 24th and 28th minutes. The midfielder was able to keep both shots down, but they went well wide of the target. Between those chances, Valenzuela attempted to play Belal into the OCB box, but Kibunguchy did well to get his foot in front of the pass.
Rivera showed off his individual skill in the 34th minute, using a nifty spin to create space for a shot. The move left Adams on the ground, but Rivera’s shot was over the crossbar.
In the 38th minute, Cincinnati used some quick passing that enabled Jesus Castellano to play Belal through. However, the ball was too close to Otero and the OCB goalkeeper collected it.
On the other end, Perez made a long run towards the Cincinnati box and played the ball through for Rivera. Morse reacted quickly, jumping off his line to reach the pass before Rivera could get to it.
OCB created a couple of chances in first-half stoppage time, but weren’t close. A foul on Rivera resulted in a short free kick to Solis. The midfielder took a shot at goal, but sent it high. Shortly after, Medina played Lynn into the Cincinnati box. The striker cut inside to lose his defenders, but slipped. He attempted to recover and shoot, but was off balance and sent the ball high and wide of the target.
The Young Lions dominated the first half and probably should’ve had a multi-goal lead. After 45 minutes of action, OCB had more possession (61.9%-38.1%), shots (9-4), shots on target (2-0), corner kicks (3-0), and crosses (3-1), and passed more accurately (91.1%-84.8%).
OCB had the first attack of the second half and a great chance to double the lead. Rivera flicked the ball into the box, where Perez had gotten behind his defender. The left back was first to the ball, but waited too long to shoot. Center back Joey Akpunonu was able to get in front of the shot, blocking it out of play.
Looking to seal the golden boot, Lynn took a chance in the 50th minute. He was sent forward by Freeman and took a curling shot on the run from outside of the box, but sent it well wide of the target.
FC Cincinnati 2 had its first good chance shortly after, when Kibunguchy fouled Castellano outside of the OCB box. Valenzuela stepped up to take the free kick and went for goal, but sent the attempt over the target.
The Ohio-based team had another set piece just outside of the OCB box in the 56th minute when Castellano was taken down by Rivera. Castellano took the set piece, but sent it straight into the wall, enabling OCB to clear.
In the 58th minute, a low Cincinnati cross into the box was blocked out of play by Kibunguchy. The ensuing corner kick was cleared and OCB broke on the counter attack. Morse was off his line and Rivera took the opportunity to send a long shot from midfield. It got over the head of the Cincinnati goalkeeper, but drifted wide.
Despite being outplayed, FC Cincinnati 2 found an equalizer in the 61st minute. Valenzuela played Belal to the top of the OCB box and the forward did well to cut back, losing the sliding Salim. His first touch after the move was a hard shot past Otero to even the game at 1-1.
Immediately after the goal, Perelman made his first two changes of the game. Tablante and Mohammed came on for Freeman and Rivera.
It didn’t take long for the Young Lions to respond, retaking the lead two minutes later through one of the substitutes. Receiving a short pass from Juninho just inside of the box, Mohammed felt the defender closing in on him and spun to create space for a shot. It was a difficult angle, but he beat Morse to give the Young Lions a 2-1 lead.
Cincinnati almost had a second equalizer in the 67th minute when Valenzuela had space to shoot from inside of the OCB box. The midfielder didn’t miss by much, sending a hard shot just over the crossbar.
Solis was even closer in the 69th minute. Receiving the ball just outside of the Cincinnati box, the midfielder sent a curling shot beyond the outreached arms of Morse and off the crossbar.
Otero didn’t have a lot to do in this game, but he was called into action in the 73rd minute. Valenzuela received the ball at the top of the box from Jiovanny Mora and sent a low attempt that was heading inside the near post. The OCB goalkeeper dove to his right, tipping it wide.
Solis had another good chance in the 75th minute when he took a shot from outside of the Cincinnati box. The ball appeared to be heading in, but Morse got his fingertips to it, tipping it over the crossbar.
A minute later, OCB hit the crossbar for the second time in the second half. This time it was Mohammed, looking for a brace. The forward received the ball on the right and was aiming for the far corner, but the ball bounced off the crossbar, keeping the score at 2-1.
The Young Lions continued to push for a third goal to put the game away. In the 85th minute Perez took a shot from distance. It was on target but right to Morse. A minute later, Juninho made a nice run into the box, split his defenders, and shot on goal. However, Morse was up to the challenge, getting down to block the attempt out of play.
Attempting to hold onto the one-goal lead, Perelman made three defensive changes in the final minutes. Zakaria Taifi and Dominic Bell entered the game in the 88th minute for Juninho and Medina. The final change came in the 90th minute as Thomas Bowe replaced Solis.
The fourth official showed three minutes of second-half stoppage time and the Young Lions controlled the final minutes. FC Cincinnati 2 was unable to get any possession and OCB saw the game out, winning its final regular-season game of 2023.
At full time, OCB had more possession (58.6%-41.4%), shots (18-12), shots on target (6-3), corners (7-3), and crosses (7-6), and passed more accurately (89.5%-84.6%). Cincinnati was much more threatening in the second half but rarely put Otero under pressure. It should’ve been a more comfortable win, but the Young Lions took all three points.
“It was a difficult game to play. We wanted to finish the regular season with a win at home because I think and I believe that the victories here were a big part of the regular season and allowed us to clinch the five position,” Perelman said. “So, we’re happy with the result and the performance as well and are ready for the playoffs.”
“It was good. It was a hot one,” Lynn added. “I think we did a good job controlling our energy. You know, picking our moments when to play fast, when to play slow. And it’s always good to get a win.”
More importantly, the win saw the Young Lions clinch the fifth seed in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro playoffs. As a result, they’ll face whoever the second and third seeds don’t choose as their opponent.
“I want to achieve the maximum possible with this team. I believe in this group of players. I believe in all the staff, our managers, our first team here in Orlando,” Perelman said. “There’s a big family with a team mentality doing strong work. So, I hope we can put this team as high as possible because I believe it will be fair for all of us.”
“I think we can play better than anyone. It’s just if we show up on the day or not,” Lynn added about the team’s chances in the playoffs. “So, being focused going into every game is going to be super important for us.”
OCB will begin its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff campaign, and second postseason ever, next weekend on the road against a yet-to-be-named opponent.
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