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Orlando City B

Orlando City B vs. Rochester New York FC: Final Score 5-2 as OCB Dominates



KISSIMMEE — Orlando City B (6-10-3, 23 points) used a first-team heavy squad to down Rochester New York FC (7-7-5, 30 points) 5-2 at Osceola County Stadium. Jesus Baitz gave the visitors a 25th-minute lead, but OCB scored five unanswered goals through Tesho Akindele, Jack Lynn, Wilder Cartagena, Ivan Angulo, and Favian Loyola. Bubacar Djalo got one back for Rochester but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Young Lions took all three points, winning their second straight match.

The midweek kickoff gave Orlando City the opportunity to give some first-team players that usually don’t start some minutes. Nine players in the starting lineup were first-team players, including Mason Stajduhar, Mikey Halliday, Rodrigo Schlegel, Thomas Williams, Cartagena, Jake Mulraney, Niko Gioacchini, Angulo, and Akindele. The only two full-time OCB players in the starting lineup were Ignacio Galvan and Erick Gunera.

“We’re one team, mentally,” OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman said about the largely first-team squad. “First team’s priority, as I always say, but everybody at OCB is so proud to receive those guys to start helping. We worked all together this week. It’s amazing working here with our first-team staff and our first-team players.”

“It’s really good to get them integrated into the system and get some familiarity at this level,” Lynn added about including some of the newest players. “Before we try to put it on the field with the first team.”

Despite several first-team players in the starting lineup, OCB got off to a slow start. Rochester got the first chance of the game and got on the board first. However, OCB took over after the goal. Angulo’s and Gioacchini’s MLS ability shined as the two dominated most of their time on the field.

Rochester’s first chance came in the second minute when Ian Garrett took a shot from the top of the box. The shot was blocked but went right to Baitz, who immediately looked to cross the ball. However, it was too close to Stajduhar, who made the catch.

OCB appeared to get its first chance in the 10th minute when Mulraney sent Akindele through on goal. The forward put the ball in, but the assistant’s flag was up for offside.

The visitors felt as though they should’ve had a penalty in the 19th minute when Gilbran Rayo carried the ball into the box and went down. It appeared as though there was contact from behind by a defender, but referee Catherine McCormick told the players to play on.

Rochester was the first to break through in the 25th minute. Quick passing by Pedro Dalabella and Edward Williams allowed the latter to send Baitz through in the box. Halliday was challenging Baitz but the forward was able to hold off the right back, putting it past Stajduhar for the opening goal.

It didn’t take long for OCB to respond and it appeared the Young Lions had evened up the contest in the 29th minute. Mulraney lifted a ball over the top for Angulo and the midfielder put it past Caique to even the game at 1-1. However, Rochester’s players were adamant that Angulo was offside. McCormick went to the far side to discuss the play with assistant Miguel Martes, which resulted in Martes belatedly raising his flag for offside, although it wasn’t during play and there is no video review in MLS NEXT Pro.

Mulraney nearly had a chance himself when Gioacchini found him at the top of the box. The midfielder dribbled inside, looking for enough space to take a shot. He created enough room for an attempt, but sent it just over the crossbar.

In the 34th minute, OCB put it past Caique again, but this time it counted. It started when Schlegel took the ball off a Rochester player on the opposing side of the field. Gioacchini quickly picked up the ball and played Schlegel into the box. The center back sent it across for Akindele, who tapped it home to even the game at 1-1.

The entire first team not in the OCB side tonight were in the stands after training to support their teammates. They especially enjoyed the run forward by Schlegel, cheering him on as he ran back to his center back position.

OCB had a good chance to take the lead in the 42nd minute when Mulraney was taken down by Lamar Batista just outside of the box. Akindele went for goal from the set piece, but sent it well over the crossbar.

A minute into first-half injury time, Rochester players again felt as though they should’ve had a penalty. This time it was Pedro Dalabella that went down, but there was less contact than the first penalty claim, and it was the same result as no foul was called.

At the half, OCB had more possession (55.7%-44.3%), corners (2-1), and crosses (5-4), but fewer shots taken (5-4). Meanwhile, both teams had one shot on target and both were goals.

Perelman made one change at the break, replacing Akindele with the team’s leading scorer, Lynn. The substitution had an immediate impact as OCB took the lead just two minutes into the second half.

This goal started on the OCB side of the field when Lynn was fouled by Gerardo Lopez. Mulraney took the kick quickly, sending it forward for Gioacchini, who was making a run. The midfielder could’ve shot himself, but decided to play it across to Lynn at the back post, allowing the striker to knock it in and give OCB a 2-1 lead.

It was Lynn’s 15th goal of the MLS NEXT Pro season, tying him with Columbus Crew 2’s Jacen Russell-Rowe for the league lead.

“On the goal, the ball was played up to me,” Lynn said about his goal. “Just tried to do my job and hold the ball up. Drew the foul and then we knew there was space in behind so we just played a quick one and I just busted my ass to get to the far post and tap it in.”

OCB extended its lead 11 minutes later off a set piece. Gioacchini was fouled just outside the box by Michael Smith, resulting in the latter getting booked. The set piece was in nearly the exact spot that Akindele took earlier in the game, but this time Mulraney stood over the ball. Rather than shooting on goal, Mulraney sent the ball to the back post, where Cartagena got his head to it, putting it past Caique to give the Young Lions a 3-1 lead.

In the 63rd minute, Lynn made a good run to the top of the Rochester box. He had Gioacchini on his left, but decided to carry the ball across the top of the box instead. Shortly after, it was taken away and a good opportunity by OCB went by the wayside.

The Young Lions got their fourth goal in the 68th minute when Djalo took down Gioacchini just outside of the box. It was in nearly the same spot as the previous two free kicks, but this time Angulo stepped up to take it. The Colombian sent the set piece around the wall and towards the far post. Caique couldn’t pick it up until it was too late and it snuck inside the post to make it 4-1.

After the goal, Loyola came on for Mulraney, and it didn’t take long for the teenager to make a difference. Just after the kickoff, Lynn won the ball back and sent Loyola through on goal. The academy product didn’t make any mistakes, putting it past Caique to give OCB a 5-1 lead.

“I’ve been really impressed with him,” Lynn said about Loyola. “He’s someone that kind of came into the group halfway through the year, once (the U-17 team) finished their season, and he’s just been lighting it up since he’s been here. As you can see, he’s got a wand of a left foot. So if you just give him one-v-one situations, he’s going to score.”

Three minutes after OCB’s fifth goal, Rochester got one back. Galvan fouled Wilterlynd Inalien about 35 yards out and on the right side of the field. Gabriel Costa sent a long ball towards the back post that was met by Djalo, who put it in to make it a 5-2 game.

The Young Lions had a chance to make it six when Williams found Angulo in the box. The midfielder took a shot, looking for his second goal of the night, but it went wide of the target.

In the 86th minute, Neicer Acosta, who had come on for Angulo four minutes earlier, was sent through on the left. Caique came out of his goal and it looked like Acosta might chip the goalkeeper, but Caique got enough of the ball to block it away, keeping his team’s deficit at three.

As time wound down, the result was a foregone conclusion. However, Rochester did create a few chances in the dying moments. In the 90th minute, Gabriel Costa took a shot from the top of the box. He had enough space to put it on target, but it was right at Stajduhar, who made the catch.

In the final seconds of the game, Costa took a shot that was deflected and appeared to be going wide. But Stajduhar wanted to make sure, so he dove and tipped it out for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece ended up at the foot of Djalo, who shot but hit it well over the target.

In the end, OCB ended up with more possession (56.6%-43.4%), corners (5-2), crosses (12-7), and completed more of their passes (83%-73.8%). While the teams had the same number of shots in the game (12-12), OCB put more on target (6-4).

“I’m really happy for our one team, mentally,” Perelman said after the game. “We joined rosters for today. Everybody helped each other. It’s a really good message from our club. We work all together but first team’s priority and I’m happy today because both rosters did a great game together.”

With these three points, the Young Lions remain in eighth place. They move closer to Philadelphia Union II, but are still five points back. They also remain in third in the Central Division and are six points behind Inter Miami II.

OCB will return to action Saturday night when it hosts Columbus Crew 2 at Osceola County Stadium, kicking off at 7 p.m.

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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