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Orlando City B

Orlando City B vs. Chicago Fire II: Final Score 4-3 as OCB Erase Two-Goal Deficit to Win Seven-Goal Thriller



Orlando City B (4-8-3, 17 points) came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Chicago Fire II (4-8-4, 17 points) in a 4-3 thriller at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL. The hosts took a 3-1 lead early in the second half through a Victor Bezerra hat trick, but a Favian Loyola brace brought the Young Lions back and Neicer Acosta’s 90th-minute goal was the difference in the game. OCB leading scorer Jack Lynn also scored for the Young Lions.

OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made three changes to the lineup that lost 3-1 to Inter Miami II last weekend. Goalkeeper Javier Otero started the game as Adam Grinwis, who started the previous three OCB games, was with the first team in Atlanta. Ignacio Galvan also re-entered the starting lineup for Nick Taylor, who started on the bench. Moises Tablante, who had started every game until tonight, was suspended for this one due to yellow card accumulation. He was replaced by Wilfredo Rivera, who got his first start since May 29 against FC Cincinnati 2.

The Young Lions got off to the better start, creating a corner kick in the third minute. After a couple of headers kept the ball near Chicago’s 18-yard box, it fell to Victor Yan just outside the penalty area. The midfielder took a shot on goal but it was right at Mihajlo Miskovic, who made the save.

In the sixth minute, Ryan Quintos pulled back Yan and was booked for the professional foul. The free kick was taken by Acosta, who sent the ball in for Lynn, making a run to the near post. The striker got his head to the ball, but sent it just wide.

Five minutes later, Galvan sent a pass from the left to Lynn inside the box. The forward turned, looking for enough space to get a shot off, but was unable to, and Chicago cleared it away.

Chicago didn’t get its first shot of the night until the 15th minute, when Josh Penn fired from just outside of the box. However, the shot was right at Otero, who had no trouble gathering it.

OCB finally broke through in the 19th minute through its leading scorer. Charlie Ostrem fouled Joey DeZart just outside the box, creating a free kick from about 18 yards away. Lynn stepped up and sent a dart into the far corner for the opening goal.

It was Lynn’s 12th goal of the year. In addition to pulling him to within one of the league lead, the goal also saw the striker set a new OCB single-season record, passing Michael Cox, who scored 11 goals during the 2016 USL season.

The hosts got their own chance from a similar spot, just a little bit further out, when Andrew Forth fouled Penn off the kickoff. However, Penn’s free kick was right into the OCB wall.

Chicago had another opportunity in the 22nd minute, when Forth was called for a controversial foul. He went up for a header while Penn didn’t jump. Rather than calling Penn for undercutting Forth, referee Rebecca Pagan called the foul on Forth. The free kick was sent into the box for Ostrem, but he couldn’t turn it on goal and it went out for a goal kick.

The Young Lions lost their veteran presence in the midfield in the 31st minute when DeZart went down. The OCB players surrounded the midfielder as he received attention. Eventually, he limped off the field and was replaced by Alejandro Granados.

Just after the sub, Chicago found the equalizer. Quintos sent a great ball to the far side of the box for Ostrem. It looked like the pass might’ve been too far, but Ostrem caught up to it and sent it back in front of goal. Bezerra was left alone and got on the end of the pass, putting it past Otero to make it 1-1. 

Chicago continued to attack following the goal and had a chance to take the lead in the 37th minute. Penn did well to sidestep two OCB defenders and create enough space for a shot. But Otero did well to get down and make the stop, keeping the score at 1-1.

Just two minutes later, Chicago took the lead in a bizarre and controversial situation. After making a stop, Otero punted the ball down field. However, assistant referee Eric Wood raised his flag and told Pagan that Otero held onto the ball for more than six seconds. It’s a violation rarely called, despite nearly every goalkeeper holding onto the ball for that long multiple times per game.

As a result, Chicago had an indirect free kick just inside the box. Penn tapped the ball to Bezerra, allowing the latter to shoot. The low, strong shot went past Otero and into the far corner, giving Chicago the 2-1 lead and Bezerra his second goal of the night.

At the half, Chicago had more possession (55.1%-44.9%) and crosses (10-6). While OCB had one more shot in the first 45 minutes (10-9), Chicago put more shots on goal (4-3) and took a 2-1 lead into the break.

It didn’t take long for Chicago to extend its lead. Just four minutes after the start of the second half, Bezerra finished off his hat trick. Sergio Oregel sent a ball into the box where Bezerra was surrounded by defenders. Bezerra brought the ball down with his thigh, turned Thomas Williams with his second touch, and put it into the far corner to give his team a 3-1 lead.

In the 51st minute, OCB nearly got one back through Yan. The midfielder carried the ball to the top of the box and took aim on goal. The ball was headed for the bottom right corner, but Miskovic did well to get down and make the save.

In the 59th minute, Perelman made a substitution that changed the game, replacing Rivera with Loyola. The 17-year-old midfielder put a charge into the Young Lions to start their comeback.

Chicago continued its attack after the substitution, when a Matteo Kidd backheel set up Oregel, but the shot was off target. A minute later, Chicago had a breakaway in which Diego Alvarado found Penn in the box. Penn took the ball around Otero and shot but hit the outside of the post.

In the 63rd minute, Otero stepped up to keep his team in the game. Alvarado found enough space to take a shot, but Otero blocked it away. Unfortunately, he blocked it right in front of goal and Alvarado was there to take another shot. Otero did well to get back to his feet and made another save, but this time he caught it.

Those two saves proved crucial as OCB found a goal seven minutes later. A nice one-two by Yan and Lynn set up Yan with space in front of goal. But Miskovic came out and blocked the shot. The rebound went right to Loyola, who put it in to cut the deficit to one.

It was the first goal for the 17-year-old in his third professional game out of the Orlando City academy.

Chicago went on the attack following the goal, looking to regain its two-goal advantage. Taylor, who had come on for Williams in the 50th minute, fouled Andre Reynolds, resulting in a free kick. Missael Rodriguez, who had come on for Bezerra right after the goal, shot from the set piece but Otero was there to make the stop.

A minute later, Penn found space to the left of the goal. After being played in by Kidd, Penn shot, but Otero was there again to make the save.

Granados nearly scored the equalizer in the 77th minute when he sent a shot towards the far side of the goal. It appeared to be on target, but Miskovic did well to dive and get his fingertips to the ball, curling it around the post.

Most of OCB’s corner kicks are short and that nearly cost the team in the 80th minute. The short corner was won by Chicago and the hosts went the other way on a counter attack. Just after entering the OCB half of the field, an excellent defensive effort knocked the ball out of play. It was brought back as Erick Gunera was booked for tugging on the jersey, but the slide saved a potential breakaway.

In the 83rd minute, the Young Lions found the equalizer. Loyola took a shot from outside the box that was saved by Miskovic. But OCB won the clearance and went back into the Chicago third. Lynn, who set up Loyola’s previous chance, sent the teenager forward. Loyola took the ball to the top of the box and cut inside to lose his defender. He quickly shot with his left foot, beating Miskovic this time and evening that game at 3-3.

Despite coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game, the Young Lions were energized to find a winner. They nearly did in the 86th minute when Granados took a shot from the left side of the box. It was headed into the corner, but Miskovic laid out to make the stop.

Chicago went the other way and Penn found substitute Miguel Flores in the box. Flores took a shot but Forth was able to get in front of him and make a big block.

The hosts thought they might’ve had the lead in the 89th minute, when a cross into the box was dropped by Otero, who reached over three attackers. However, a foul was called on Rodriguez and OCB was able to clear the danger.

The Young Lions quickly broke the other way, creating a three-on-three situation. Acosta found Loyola to his right with nobody between him and the goalkeeper. The shot was right at Miskovic, who used his leg to block the ball away. However, it went right to Acosta, whose second touch was a chip over Miskovic and into the goal, giving OCB a late 4-3 lead.

It was a remarkable comeback by OCB but there were still seven minutes of injury time to be played — plenty of time for Chicago to find another equalizer. Two minutes into added time, Kidd’s cross found the head of Quintos in front of goal but it was right at Otero.

Two minutes later, Penn sent a cross into the box that wasn’t controlled. However, it fell to the foot of Flores, who sent the shot over the crossbar.

Six minutes into added time, it looked like Chicago had a breakaway in the box, but Gunera made a last-ditch slide and got enough of the ball to knock it away. The Chicago players appealed for a penalty, but Pagan said no.

In the eighth minute of injury time, A cross to the back post was headed back in front of goal, but Otero was right there to catch it. That was the last touch of the game as Pagan’s whistle blew and the Young Lions came away with the 4-3 win.

In the end, Chicago had more possession (53-7%-46.3%), shots (25-21), and crosses (23-10). But the teams had the same number of shots on goal (12-12) and corners (6-6). Most importantly, Otero was able to make nine saves while Miskovic only made eight.

The win ends a two-game losing streak that dates back to OCB’s 3-1 win over FC Cincinnati 2 on June 25 in Northern Kentucky. It’s only the fourth win for the Young Lions this year and their second away from Osceola County Stadium.

OCB will look to build on this comeback performance next Sunday night when they return home to face Philadelphia Union 2 at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee.

Orlando City B

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

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.

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Orlando City B

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

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.

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Orlando City B

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

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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