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