Orlando City B (4-1-1, 14 points) kept its unbeaten home record with a thrilling 3-2 win over Toronto FC II (0-4-1, 1 point) tonight at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee. The visitors took a third-minute lead through Jesus Batiz and an early second-half lead from a Hugo Mbongue goal. But OCB responded each time, first from Alex Freeman and then Abdi Salim, before Moises Tablante won it at the death.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman only made one change to the team that drew NYCFC II 2-2 last weekend. Imanol Almaguer wasn’t in the team, replaced by Alejandro Granados in the starting lineup. Javier Otero was back in goal, in front of Tablante, Nabi Kibunguchy, Salim, and Freeman. Granados, Cristian Medina, Juninho, Cristofer Acuna and Jhon Solis were in the midfield with Favian Loyola up top.
Perelman has said he wants his Young Lions to start fast and score inside the first minute. While OCB has gotten off to good starts this year, it was the visitors that scored early in this one. The goal came in the third minute from a long clearance by Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran, who sent the ball far up field. Aided by a strong wind, the ball sailed over the head of Salim, sending Batiz into the OCB box. The forward opened up and aimed for the far post, putting it in off the woodwork to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
In the fifth minute, Themi Antonoglou was given space about 30 yards out and dribbled into the OCB box. He beat multiple defenders, including a nice cut that put Kibunguchy on the ground, before Tablante got between the attacker and the ball, allowing Otero to collect it.
OCB almost had a chance to equalize in the seventh minute when Tablante entered the box and lifted the ball towards the near post. Acuna attempted an acrobatic attempt to put the ball on target but missed, allowing Gavran to fall on the ball.
Toronto had another opportunity in the 17th minute when a Medina handball gave the visitors a free kick. Antonoglou’s set piece was off the wall, providing Toronto with a corner. It eventually ended up with Adamo Pantaleo who shot from the top corner of the box, but it was high and wide of the target.
In the 23rd minute, Lucas Olguin sent a good ball forward for Mbongue, who shielded Kibunguchy to create a short breakaway. However, Otero came off his line to cut down the angle and blocked the shot away.
Two minutes later, Salim blocked a Batiz shot out for a Toronto corner that almost resulted in a second Toronto goal. The corner was too long, but Olguin laid the ball back for Pantaleo who fired from long distance. It was a good shot that appeared to be on target, but Otero stretched out in a diving attempt, tipping it wide of the goal for his second big save in three minutes.
In the 30th minute, Batiz did well to beat Freeman, but the OCB right back recovered well and blocked Batiz’s cross attempt out of play. The ensuing corner landed in the six-yard box, but no Toronto players could get on the end of it, allowing OCB to clear.
The Young Lions had their best first-half chance in the 32nd minute, when a quick give-and-go between Tablante and Solis enabled the former to send a low cross into the box. Acuna redirected the shot on target, but it was right at Gavran, who blocked it away. The rebound went to Loyola near the penalty spot, but he skied his shot over the goal.
OCB almost had another chance in the 36th minute, when Loyola’s pass out wide was knocked behind the end line by Olguin. The short corner was crossed into the box by Tablante with Kibunguchy charging in. Gavran’s punch didn’t leave the box, but nobody in purple could get on the end of it and Toronto cleared.
In the 40th minute, Granados fouled Antony Curic just outside of the OCB box, giving Toronto a good opportunity for a strike on goal. Markus Cimermancic took the set piece, curling it over the wall and on target. Otero’s view seemed to be slightly obstructed by several players, forcing him to dive and block it away.
Perelman made a somewhat surprising change in the 44th minute, bringing on Zakaria Taifi for his captain, Juninho. OCB had a late corner kick, but couldn’t make anything out of it and the Young Lions went into the break down 1-0.
OCB had more first-half possession (51.8%-48.2%), but Toronto had more shots (7-4), shots on target (4-1), and corners (5-3). The Young Lions had more crosses (7-3) and passing accuracy (86.1%-85.6%).
The fact that OCB was only down a goal at halftime was a positive as the Young Lions were thoroughly outplayed in the first 45 minutes. Without some fantastic goalkeeping by Otero, the scoreline could’ve been much worse.
While Toronto got off to the fast first-half start, it was the hosts that put on pressure to start the second 45 minutes. Less than two minutes in, Solis found Tablante out wide and the academy product sent a low cross into the box. It was to Loyola near the penalty spot, but he shot at Gavran, who blocked it away. The rebound went to Taifi, but Gavran stormed off his line to block the second attempt.
OCB kept possession after the block and it turned into the equalizing goal. Receiving the ball from Kibunguchy, Tablante raced towards the end line and sent a nearly identical pass to Loyola, who was standing in the same spot as his earlier attempt. Once again, Gavran made the stop, but this time it went to Freeman, who put it in to tie the game at 1-1.
Gavran made another big save in the 50th minute when Granados took a shot from just outside of the box. The Toronto goalkeeper did well to get down and block it out for a corner kick and caught the ensuing set piece to clear the danger.
In the 54th minute, Toronto took advantage of some more poor OCB defending. After Acuna’s shot missed the near post, Gavran played the goal kick short to Matthew Medeiros inside the Toronto box. Medeiros sent a long ball into the OCB half of the field and Kibunguchy appeared to have it under control. But he misplayed the long ball, allowing Mbongue to get in free on goal. He slipped the ball through Otero’s legs, regaining the lead for the visitors.
OCB had some chances to equalize around the 69th minute when the Young Lions had three consecutive corner kicks. The first came when a ball forward for Acuna was cleared out by Antonoglou, but it was cleared out of play by Alec Diaz. Solis connected with the second attempt, but it was blocked out by Mbongue. The third was headed on goal by Kibunguchy, and ended up in the arms of Gavran.
The OCB players felt that the Kibunguchy shot went off the arm of a defender and appealed to referee Natalie Simon for a handball in the box. But she didn’t agree and, with no video review in MLS NEXT Pro, play continued.
The Young Lions made their second substitution of the game in the 70th minute when Wilfredo Rivera came on for Granados. While it was a like-for-like change, Rivera is a first-team player coming on for a 16-year-old, so it was an aggressive move by Perelman.
OCB came close to an equalizer in the 74th minute when Solis chipped the ball into the box for Rivera. Pantaleo got to it first, but his clearance attempt sent the ball to the top of the six-yard box instead. Acuna beat center back Lazar Stefanovic to the ball and flicked it over Gavran, but the attempt was just over the crossbar.
After a miss by Kibunguchy and a Solis shot that went right to Gavran, the Young Lions found their second equalizer in the 84th minute. Pressure by Tablante forced Toronto into a turnover and Acuna shot from just outside of the box. Curic got his foot in the way, clearing it out for a corner kick. The ensuing corner by Rivera was into the mixer, but over the hand of Gavran. It landed on the head of Salim, who put it in to tie the game back up at 2-2.
“Today we played with heart, the second half especially. We made it happen,” Perelman said about his team coming back from two deficits. “But that was the players. They were inside, they pushed, they believed, they fought until the last second and they achieved it.”
OCB wasn’t resting with a draw and pushed hard for the win. In the 89th minute, Curic fouled Freeman, creating a chance for Loyola. The forward went for goal from just outside of the box, but Gavran punched it away.
Less than a minute later, they nearly gave it away when a pass by Medina was blocked by Olguin, allowing Julian Altobelli to take over. He played it wide for Antonoglou who sprinted into the OCB box and shot. Fortunately, Salim got back and blocked the attempt for a corner kick.
A minute into injury time, the hosts found the winner. Quickly pushing up field, Taifi found Loyola on the left, who played the ball towards the top of the box for Tablante. Starting at left back, Tablante had moved forward throughout the game and received the ball just outside of the box. The pass was a little behind him, but Tablante spun to maintain control and fired with his left foot. Gavran never had a chance, not even reaching out, and the Young Lions took their first lead with seconds remaining.
“The coach, he told me that it was going to happen. Actually, he told me that it was going to be me because I was having a great game,” Tablante said about his goal. “That was the only thing that I had left. I grabbed the ball there and shot it and thank God it went in.”
“I’m really proud of him,” Perelman said about Tablante. “I’m really happy for him. He’s a great boy. He fights a lot. He deserves it.”
Toronto led most statistical categories at halftime, but OCB dominated the second half. They ended up with more possession (55.7%-44.3%), shots (21-10), shots on target (12-5), corners (12-6), crosses (16-3), and passing accuracy (86.6%-81.9%).
“It was a crazy game,” Perelman said after the win. “We knew that the games against Toronto are like that. Last year, in all the games we analyzed from them, we know that they’re always crazy games. So we were there. We’re doing a great job. It’s not easy for our boys. A new team fighting every second, every meter. I’m proud of the boys. I’m really proud, especially in the second half.”
“It was a game for the team because we knew we were going to do it,” Tablante added. “We tied it and they scored another one. And thank God we are a strong team and we never went down mentally. And thank God we scored two more and we got the three points.”
The Young Lions are now 3-0-1 at Osceola County Stadium with a penalty shootout win. They also moved to the top of the Eastern Conference — at least temporarily — with 14 points, one ahead of their next opponent, Crown Legacy FC. However, they’ve played a game more than Crown Legacy and Columbus Crew 2 just behind. Crown Legacy plays New York City FC II tonight.
After Orlando City beat the LA Galaxy 2-0 and the Pride stunned San Diego Wave FC 3-1 last night, all three of the club’s teams won this weekend. It’s the first time that all three teams have won on the same weekend since August 12-14, 2022, when OCB beat NYCFC II, City beat the New York Red Bulls, and the Pride beat San Diego. However, while last time all three games were away, two of the games this weekend were at home.
Following a stretch of games that saw OCB play four of its last five at home, the Young Lions will now head out on a two-game road trip. It starts Friday night when they face Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina.
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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