Orlando City B (6-3-2, 21 points) returned to Osceola County Stadium tonight and beat New York Red Bulls II (5-2-3, 20 points) 3-2. An own goal by Dija gave OCB the early lead, but Ibrahim Kasule and Ricardo Gorday made it 2-1 New York at the break. Jack Lynn and Shak Mohammed led the second-half comeback, lifting the Young Lions to their second straight win.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman only made one change to the team that beat Inter Miami II 1-0 Thursday night. Wilfredo Rivera entered the lineup, getting his first start of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season, replacing captain Juninho.
The back line in front of Javier Otero included Alex Freeman, Nabi Kibunguchy, Thomas Williams, and Moises Tablante. Imanol Almaguer, Cristian Medina, and Rivera lined up in the midfield, with Mohammed, Lynn, and Jhon Solis up top.
OCB got off to the better start, putting New York on its heels in the first 20 minutes. But the visitors ended the half strong, scoring two goals to take the lead. The second half was all OCB as the Young Lions dominated the final 45 minutes and took their second consecutive win.
The Young Lions got the game’s first shot in the second minute when Tablante found Almaguer in the middle of the field. The midfielder took a rising shot that appeared to be headed in, but New York’s goalkeeper, Alan Rutkowski, got his hands to the ball and knocked it out for a corner kick.
The ensuing short corner ended up with Almaguer, who sent the ball into the box. Rivera volleyed it back to Williams, who headed it towards goal. The ball appeared to hit the right arm of Jayden Reid and his arm looked to be extended, but referee Ivan Cid Cruz said no.
Two minutes later, OCB took the early lead. Receiving the ball back from Freeman, Almaguer curled a cross towards the back post where Lynn was charging in. The striker, who had scored three goals in the two previous games, dove into the six and headed the ball on goal. Rutkowski blocked the attempt, but it went right off Dija and in for an own goal.
In the ninth minute, OCB had a chance for a second when Tablante sprinted into the box and played a quick give-and-go with Lynn. The striker backheeled the ball to the left back, sending him behind the New York defense, but Rutkowski did well to block Tablante’s shot. It was sent back into the box, but Kibunguchy slipped and the Red Bulls were able to clear.
In the 13th minute, Solis dribbled towards the top of the box. He had Freeman on the far side, who might’ve been free on goal, but Solis decided to take it himself from distance. The midfielder had space for a shot, but sent it right into the arms of Rutkowski.
The first decent chance for the visitors came in the 24th minute when O’Vonte Mullings sent a cross into the box. Striker Frank Ssebufu was charging in on goal and Otero was a little late coming off his line, but knocked it off Ssebufu’s foot.
A minute later, Amos Shapiro-Thompson sent the ball forward and into the OCB box for Kasule behind the back line. This time Otero was more decisive, coming out to punch it away before Kasule could reach the pass.
New York found an equalizer in the 31st minute due to some splendid play by captain Mullings. The midfielder dribbled down the end line, cutting to beat Kibunguchy and Medina before finding Kasule in front of goal. It was a simple tap-in past Otero for Kasule, leveling the game at 1-1.
In the 37th minute, Dija used his speed to beat Tablante to the end line. The midfielder sent the ball towards the top of the six-yard box where Ssebufu beat Williams. He volleyed the ball towards the near post, but Otero did well to get across and tip it wide.
OCB nearly got the lead back in the 41st minute when Juan Gutierrez fouled Solis just outside of the New York box. Solis took the kick himself, sending it over the wall. The ball was dipping down and appeared to be on target, but Rutkowski did well to dive and tip it wide of the near post.
In the 44th minute, Medina took down Omar Valencia just outside of the OCB box and to the left of goal. Cruz issued Medina a yellow card and New York a free kick from a dangerous position. Gorday stepped up to take the kick and went straight for goal. The ball was right to the three-man wall, but while Solis and Mohammed went straight up, Tablante inexplicably jumped to his side. The free kick went right where Tablante should’ve been, curling inside the near post to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
The Young Lions had one last first-half chance when Dija fouled Rivera just outside of the New York box. Tablante went for goal but sent his shot well off target and OCB went into the break down one.
At halftime, OCB led in most statistical categories, including possession (58.7%-41.3%), shots (9-4), shots on target (5-4), corners (3-2), and passing accuracy (85.2%-79,4%). New York had more crosses (11-1) and, most importantly, a 2-1 lead.
The Young Lions started the second half the way they started the game and nearly broke through in the 50th minute. Receiving the ball forward from Tablante, Solis cut inside the created space from his defender, sending it through for Lynn. The striker initially got it caught between his feet, but eventually gained control. The slight hesitation allowed Reid to catch up, sliding in to block Lynn’s shot.
In the 53rd minute, they had another attempt when Freeman played the ball forward for Mohammed. The first-team attacker caught up to the ball and his first touch was a shot towards goal. Unfortunately, he didn’t hit it very well and Rutkowski had little trouble blocking it away.
New York had its first second-half chance in the 58th minute when Ronald Donkor, who had just come on for Mullings, beat Tablante and sent a free kick into the box for Ssebufu. The striker couldn’t turn on the ball, sending it wide.
OCB should’ve had a free kick in a dangerous spot in the 59th minute when Freeman dribbled to the top of the box and was taken down by Reid. Cruz determined that Reid got the ball, but replays showed that he didn’t get any of it. Regardless, New York was able to go the other way.
Rutkowski had been very good for the first hour, but he made a crucial error in the 61st minute, allowing OCB to equalize. After a short free kick on their own side of the field, Medina sent a long ball for Freeman. Rutkowski came out of his box, but misjudged the ball. Freeman shied away, but it bounced off the right back and went right to Lynn. OCB’s leading scorer played it into the empty goal from distance to make it 2-2.
Lynn started the season by scoring two goals in the first three games. But he was only used as a sub in the subsequent contests and went five games without a goal. He came on as a second-half substitute and scored twice in the team’s 2-2 draw against Atlanta United 2 on May 19 and scored again Thursday night in Fort Lauderdale. The striker now has four goals in his last three games for OCB.
“It’s the merit of Jack and of my staff because my staff work with him privately a lot,” Perelman said about Lynn’s scoring streak. “The only merit here is Jack’s talent, Jack’s effort, and my staff intervention.”
Once the game was level, it only took three minutes for the Young Lions to take their second lead of the game. Freeman received the ball forward on the right and took a shot from a tough angle. Rutkowski dove for it, but the ball bounced off the post. Fortunately, it went right to Mohammed, who put it in for his first goal in purple and gave OCB a 3-2 lead.
“It means the world to me,” Mohammed said about the goal. “I kind of scuffed it, but it went in and that’s all that matters really. Good moment for me and hopefully more to come.”
“I am happy for him,” Perelman said about Mohammed getting his first goal. “He was fighting for this opportunity and now he’s taking it in a good way and he’s impressing everybody. So we hope he can be consistent in his performance.”
Immediately after the goal, Perelman made his first change of the game, replacing Medina with Zakaria Taifi.
Right off the kickoff, a long ball by Rutkowski was flicked on for Ssebufu. A good touch by the striker beat Williams and he sent a cross into the box from the end line. Kasule beat Kibunguchy to the ball in front of the goal, but it went off his shin and wide.
OCB nearly conceded an own goal in the 68th minute when Williams attempted to clear a cross in for Ssebufu. He mishit the ball, sending it over the outstretched arm of Otero and, fortunately, the crossbar.
New York had a good chance in the 69th minute when quality passing in tight spaces between Shapiro-Thompson and Ssebufu created a chance. It looked like Ssebufu had space for a shot, but Almaguer came flying out of nowhere to slide in and block the attempt.
Perelman made two more changes in the 79th minute. Looking to see off the game, Favian Loyola and Tahir Reid-Brown came on for Rivera and the goal-scoring hero, Lynn.
In the 84th minute, Taifi made a long run from midfield to near the New York box. The teenager took a curling and dipping shot from distance and it was on target, but Rutkowski dove to his left to make a one-handed save.
In second-half injury time, New York sent three dangerous balls into the box, desperately trying to find another equalizer, but Otero handled them well. He jumped over everyone to claim a free kick by Shapiro-Thompson and took two balls off the head of Ssebufu, helping to seal the 3-2 win.
At full-time, OCB had more possession (53.8%-46.2%), shots (16-14), shots on target (10-5), corners (8-5), and passing accuracy (81.5%-77.9%). New York had more crosses (19-5) and won more tackles (14-11), but couldn’t hold onto its halftime lead.
“I think that we did a good game in general. The first half, we dominated completely the first 20 minutes. Then we went down in our energy. And they are a good team and they found two goals that hurt us a lot,” Perelman said after the game. “But we spoke in the halftime in the locker room that we were at home and I told them that we need to win. So we went back out on the field and the boys were great. I am proud of them.”
“This is the sign of a great team,” Mohammed added. “We find a way to always win, even when things are tough. Not the most amazing game, taking until the end playing wise. But we found a way out there, especially in the second half, to keep pushing with energy and we got the win. Huge three points for the team for sure.”
This is the second time in three games that OCB has come back from a deficit in the second half. The Young Lions only got a draw against Atlanta, but claimed all three points tonight. It’s the second time this year they’ve come from behind and won.
“That’s not the first time we’ve done it this season,” Mohammed said about the team coming back. “You’d rather not give away goals, but it’s also a good feeling knowing we can always come back and get the win.”
The Young Lions had a great start to the season, taking 14 of a possible 18 points from their first six games. But a dreadful road trip to begin May saw them drop back-to-back games against Crown Legacy and Columbus Crew 2, and lose a shootout against Atlanta United 2 at home. They bounced back well and got back to their winning ways with a six-point weekend, moving them up to third in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind second place.
After a short return home, OCB will head back out on the road when it faces Toronto FC II at York Lions University Stadium next Sunday night.