Two poor clearances late in the first half helped Toronto FC II (3-7-1, 10 points) beat Orlando City B (6-4-2, 21 points) 3-0 in a shortened game north of the border. Reshaun Walkes gave the hosts the lead in the 33rd minute and Markus Cimermancic doubled the advantage two minutes later. Jesus Batiz added a second-half goal for good measure, handing the Young Lions their first loss since May 14.
The game suffered a power issue in the 72nd minute when the lights went out. The delay lasted for nearly an hour and a half before the game had to end due to a local curfew.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made four changes to the team that beat New York Red Bulls II Monday night. First-team backup goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar entered the lineup with Zakaria Taifi, Juninho, and Alejandro Granados, who returned after representing Spain. They replaced Javier Otero, Alex Freeman, Moises Tablante, and Wilfredo Rivera.
The back line in front of Stajduhar was Imanol Almaguer, Nabi Kibunguchy, Thomas Williams, and Taifi. Juninho, Cristian Medina, and Granados were in the midfield and Shak Mohammed, Jack Lynn, and Jhon Solis made up the front line.
Despite their lack of goals, it was defensive errors that cost OCB in this game. It started inside the first minute when the Young Lions nearly gave up a breakaway and continued as they gave the opposition possession in the box on several occasions. The first two goals came from bad clearances and it could’ve been worse.
The game got off to an inauspicious start when Williams turned the ball over to Walkes near the OCB box. He made a clumsy challenge to stop a potential breakaway, taking down Walkes and receiving a yellow card just 17 seconds after the kickoff. Walkes received treatment for an extended period of time before getting up and resuming play. Themi Antonoglou stepped up to take the set piece, sending it well over the target.
The Young Lions got their first chance in the eighth minute, when Granados got the ball on the left and sent it towards the penalty spot for Mohammed. The attacker’s first touch was a shot, but it was blocked.
Stajduhar was called into action for the first time in the 10th minute, when Cristian Gutierrez found Walkes in the box. The forward got his head to the ball, putting it on goal, but it was right into the arms of Stajduhar.
Two minutes later, Walkes should’ve scored when a ball into the box was headed on by Batiz. It fell right to Walkes’ feet, who was left wide open at the top of the six-yard box, and should’ve been an easy goal for the forward, but he put it wide.
In the 22nd minute, Almaguer sent a cross into the box that was headed away. However, it was only sent to the top of the 18, where Granados collected it. The midfielder moved the ball over to his right and shot, but the attempt was right to Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran.
Juninho made a good run in the 31st minute into the Toronto third of the field. A strong touch allowed a defender to step up, but his clearance bounced off Juninho and went towards the six-yard box. It bounced around and looked like Lynn would get on the end of it, but Toronto was able to clear it.
After being booked inside the first minute of the game, Williams made the referee think about issuing a second yellow. The center back stepped over the ball and took down Walkes for the second time after a careless giveaway by Solis. Rather than sending him off, the referee Ryan Schwenger gave Williams his final warning.
The hosts opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, when Antonoglou sent a cross into the box. Taifi attempted to head the ball away, but sent it directly to Walkes. It was an easy finish for the forward, who put it past Stajduhar to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
It took less than two minutes for Toronto to double their lead. It started when Granados received the ball from Taifi on the left and lost it to Toronto in his own third. Hugo Mbongue and Walkes attempted a give-and-go, but Medina won it back. However, his poor clearance attempt went right to Cimermancic, whose shot was deflected by Kibunguchy and went in to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
The Young Lions had a chance in the 40th minute when Solis played the ball back for Almaguer, who had plenty of time to send a cross into the box. It found the head of Lynn, who had a defender right in front of him. As a result, Lynn couldn’t get much on the attempt and Gavran easily collected it.
A minute later, the Young Lions thought they should’ve had a penalty when Mohammed found Lynn making a run into the box. His first touch was towards the near post and Adam Pearlman appeared to take him down. Schwenger determined that there wasn’t enough in the challenge and signaled play on.
OCB had another bad clearance in the 45th minute, this time by Williams. Possibly lucky to still be on the field, Mbongue dribbled into the center back, but his clearance was poor, giving the striker another chance. Fortunately, he sent the ball over the goal.
Lynn had the final chance of the first half in the 45th minute. He carried the ball to his right to avoid a defender and took a shot from outside of the box, but it didn’t cause any trouble for Gavran, who easily collected it.
At halftime, Toronto had more possession (53.1%-46.9%), shots (9-5), and passing accuracy (91%-89.9%). OCB had more crosses (6-2) and both teams put three shots on target. The difference in the half was Toronto taking advantage of some poor clearances by the Young Lions.
Toronto had the first chance of the second half when Batiz made a good run into the box in the 54th minute. Reaching the end line, he played it back for Cimermancic, but the midfielder sent his shot over the goal.
OCB had its first second-half chance in the 56th minute when Juninho sent the ball into the box with Lynn and Mohammed making back-post runs. With Mohammed behind him, Lynn got his head on the ball, putting it on target. But he didn’t get enough on it and Gavran was able to collect it.
In the 57th minute, Mbongue made a run into the box and got a shot off, but it was blocked out of play by Williams for the game’s first corner kick. The ensuing set piece ended up with Cimermancic at the top of the box. He put it back into the mixer, but nobody in red could get on the end of it. The Young Lions had trouble clearing the ball again, but were eventually able to get it away.
The hosts nearly had a third goal in the 59th minute when Walkes sent a low cross into the box looking for Mbongue. The forward got behind Kibunguchy, but the center back was able to catch up and reach the ball first. He stuck his foot out and the ball went towards his own goal and into the arms of Stajduhar.
Perelman made his first change in the 62nd minute, bringing Favian Loyola on for Granados. It was an attacking substitution as the Young Lions looked to get back into the game.
In the 64th minute, Marko Stojadinovic, who came on at halftime, took an ambitious shot from long distance. It was a decent strike and the bodies in front of Stajduhar made it more challenging. But the goalkeeper did well to dive to his right and stop it.
Seconds later on the other end, Lynn received the ball in the box and dropped it back for Mohammed. The first-team forward shot, but it was wide of the near post. That was the last touch of the game for Mohammed, as he was replaced by Wilfredo Rivera.
Immediately after the substitution, Toronto scored its third goal. Mbongue played the ball for Cimemancic with Williams challenging. Cimermancic’s first touch was a pass through Williams’ legs for Batiz, who held his run long enough to remain onside. The forward didn’t squander his attempt, putting it by the oncoming Stajduhar to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
As the Toronto players celebrated, the lights went out in the stadium, apparently on a timer. The game was originally scheduled to start at 8 p.m., but a delay in OCB reaching the stadium saw the game delayed an hour with a 9 p.m. kickoff. That triggered the lights to go off with a little less than 30 minutes remaining in the game, eventually ending the contest and giving Toronto the 3-0 win.
In the end, Toronto had more possession (51.7%-48.3%), shots (17-9), shots on target (5-4), corners (2-0), and passing accuracy (89.3%-89%). OCB had more crosses (8-4), duels won (41-29), and tackles won (10-5).
The Young Lions will have a week before they take the field next, returning home to face FC CIncinnati 2 at Osceola County Stadium next Sunday evening.
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.
Orlando City B at Chicago Fire II: Final Score 1-1 as OCB Clinches Playoff Spot
OCB clinches its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff appearance with a 1-1 draw and shootout win over Chicago Fire II.
Orlando City B (12-10-5, 43 points) secured its first playoff appearance in MLS NEXT Pro and second in team history with a 1-1 draw against Chicago Fire II (9-8-10, 41 points) in Illinois. Sergio Oregel gave the hosts the lead in the 17th minute, but Chicago was unable to double the advantage. OCB had a much better second half, and substitute Wilfredo Rivera equalized in the 71st minute. The Young Lions won the ensuing penalty shootout, 4-3, to return home with two points.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made two changes to the team that drew 1-1 with New England Revolution II last weekend. It appears that Abdi Salim and Jack Lynn are both with the first team preparing for the match tomorrow night, replaced in the lineup by Thomas Williams and Jhon Solis, who returned after serving his suspension against New England.
The Young Lions went with their typical 4-4-2 formation in this game. The starting back line in front of goalkeeper Javier Otero was Franco Perez, Williams, Nabi Kibunguchy, and Imanol Almaguer. Cristian Medina, Juninho, Alex Freeman, and Moises Tablante were in the midfield with Shak Mohammed and Solis up top.
Chicago was by far the better team in the first 30 minutes and could’ve been up multiple goals before OCB took its first shot. But it remained 1-0 at halftime, enabling the Young Lions to get back into the game. A strong second-half team all year, OCB did it again, dominating the second 45 minutes to pull level.
The game got off to a slow start with neither team creating any dangerous chances. Charlie Ostrem took a long-distance shot in the second minute and Eric Leonard in the 11th minute, but both were blocked. In the 12th minute, Oregel played the ball to the top of the box for Missael Rodriguez, but his shot missed wide.
The hosts nearly opened the scoring in the 15th minute when Billy Hency dribbled into the OCB box for the second time. He cut inside to lose Perez — who reached his right leg out but didn’t get enough of the ball — and shot for the near post. Otero dove to his left, tipping the ball wide.
Chicago broke through in the 17th minute when Rodriguez received the ball in the middle of the field. He played it for Oregel, who continued the ball out right for Hency. The midfielder’s pass for Rodrigeuz was behind and it looked like OCB might clear. Dylan Borso and Juninho both went after the ball and it bounced off Borso’s arm, but referee Calin Radosav didn’t call it. The ball went back to Oregel, who put it past Otero to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
In the 22nd minute, Hency found Luka Prpa at the top of the OCB box. Prpa’s shot was rising as it neared the OCB goal and Otero reached up for it, but the attempt ultimately went over the crossbar.
The Young Lions finally created their first attack in the 26th minute. Juninho made a long run into the Chicago box and centered the ball for Mohammed near the penalty spot. The pass was behind the forward, so Mohammed played it to Tablante on his left. Tablante made some moves to create space for a shot, but Hency did well to stay in front and blocked the attempt.
OCB was able to create some more opportunities from set pieces but was unable to convert. In the 31st minute, Prpa fouled Freeman, earning a yellow card. The free kick by Almaguer was into the box, but cleared away.
Three minutes later, Borso fouled Solis about 25 yards from goal. Almaguer was expected to lift another cross into the box, but quickly stepped up to the ball and fired on goal, attempting to catch the defense off guard. However, his shot skied over the crossbar and was never a threat for Chicago goalkeeper Jeff Gal.
Juninho found Tablante to his left in the 35th minute, but the midfielder’s second shot of the half was blocked. That was the last first-half chance for either team as the game went to the break with Chicago leading 1-0.
Possession was almost even in the first 45 minutes, with Chicago holding a slight edge (50.1%-49.9%). But the Fire created most of the chances, ending the first half with more shots (6-3), shots on target (2-0), and crosses (4-1). OCB passed more accurately (88.4%-85%) and both teams won two corner kicks.
Perelman made a surprising halftime change, replacing the team’s second-leading goal scorer Mohammed with Cristofer Acuna. Immediately after the kickoff, the Fire created a chance when Oregel sent Rodriguez behind the OCB defense. The forward was pushed wide, but got away a shot on target. Otero was guarding his near post and got down to make the stop.
OCB created its first shot on target in the 49th minute from Perez just outside of the Chicago box. It forced Gal to dive to his left and tip the ball wide for a corner kick. The ensuing short corner resulted in an Oregel foul on Juninho just outside of the Chicago 18. Almaguer sent a curling cross towards the back post, but it was too high for Williams to put it on target, glancing off the top of his head.
As he’s done several times this year, Juninho attempted to drag his team back into the game as it neared the hour mark. In the 51st minute, the OCB captain dribbled into the box and shot, but it was right at Gal. Five minutes later, the midfielder took an ambitious shot from outside of the box. He kept it low, but it was right to Gal who made the easy save.
Perelman made his second change in the 61st minute and it was a forward for a defender. Rivera came on for left back Perez, resulting in Tablante dropping back to left back, where he’s played frequently since 2020.
It looked like OCB would have a great chance in the 64th minute when Juninho was sent forward to the top of the Chicago box. After a challenge with the defender, Juninho went down. Both teams stopped, expecting Radosav to call the foul, but he decided there wasn’t enough contact.
An unusual and confusing situation occurred in the 67th minute when Kibunguchy and Rodriguez got together near the OCB box. The Young Lions ended up with the ball and went on the counter attack. After failing to create anything, Radosav halted the game as Rodriguez was still down. He gave Kibunguchy a yellow card for the collision and Perelman a yellow for dissent after the play.
OCB had been the more threatening team in the second half and found the equalizer in the 71st minute. Receiving the ball from Tablante near the end line, Juninho sent a low pass to Rivera at the top of the six-yard box. But it hit the foot of Prpa and popped up for Rivera. The second-half substitute’s diving header went past Gal to even the game at 1-1.
The Young Lions had more chances in the 75th minute when Tablante saved the ball from going out of play, but his pass into the middle was blocked out by Ueland for a corner kick. The short set piece ended up with Freeman in the box and his shot was blocked for another corner. This one didn’t result in an OCB shot as Chicago won a goal kick.
In the 81st minute, Hency found Rodriguez going forward. Rodriguez took a shot shortly after entering the box, but it was blocked out of play by Williams for a corner kick. That was the last action for Rodriguez as he was immediately replaced.
The corner ended up with Matteo Kidd, who took a hard shot from distance. It looked like it would’ve been on target, but Williams came charging in to block it, enabling OCB to clear the danger.
On the other end, OCB nearly took its first lead of the night. With his back to goal at the top of the box, Juninho laid the ball off for the oncoming Solis. The midfileder’s first touch was a hard shot towards the near post, but it went just wide.
In the 90th minute, Hency cleared the ball out of play for an OCB corner kick. The set piece found the foot of Kibunguchy in the box and the center back’s first touch was a shot. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get over it, sending the ball well over the target.
The Young Lions nearly scored a winner in the third minute of stoppage time when Tablante sent a cross towards the back post. It looked to be too close to Gal, but went over his head and off the far post. The Chicago defense nearly headed it into the goal but it went just wide for a corner. That was the last chance as the game ended 1-1.
At full time, OCB had more possession (54.2%-45.8%), shots (12-11), corners (9-2), and crosses (7-5), and passed more accurately (87%-83.8%). Chicago put more shots on target (4-3), but only one past Otero.
NYCFC II’s draw and shootout win over Toronto FC II earlier in the evening meant that the Young Lions only needed a point to clinch a spot in the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs. It’s the first time they’ve seen the postseason in the young league and the second time they’ve made the postseason in team history.
While they did their job and clinched a playoff spot, the draw meant the game would go to penalties to see which team got an extra point. Freeman started the shootout by putting his attempt into the corner. Prpa stepped up for Chicago and also went for the corner. But Otero guessed correctly and stopped it to give OCB the lead after one round.
Medina took the second attempt for the Young Lions and went right down the middle. Gal dove to his left, but left his legs back enough to block the attempt. Defender Noah Egan put his penalty past Otero to make it 1-1 after two rounds.
The shootout settled down after that with Juninho, Solis, and Acuna comfortably netting their penalties. Michael Nesci sent Otero the wrong way, but the 20-year-old goalkeeper nearly ended it in the fourth round when he got a hand to Justin Reynolds’ attempt. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get enough of it to keep it out.
After Acuna put his shot into the roof to give the Young Lions the fifth-round lead, Ostrem stepped up needing to convert. He put his attempt down the middle, nearly identical to Medina earlier. However, Otero was able to keep his legs back, blocking the shot and OCB took two points on the night.
OCB remains in fifth place with one game remaining in the regular season and can’t catch Columbus Crew 2 for fourth. However, the Young Lions still have plenty to play for next weekend. They can still finish fifth, sixth, or seventh, potentially determining if they can get a home game in the postseason.
The Young Lions will return home to end their second MLS NEXT Pro regular season next Sunday when they face FC Cincinnati 2 at Osceola County Stadium.
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