Orlando City B (10-8-2, 33 points) faced off against New York Red Bulls II (10-6-4, 36 points) in New Jersey tonight, falling 2-1. The hosts took a first-half lead through Wikelman Carmona, but a Moises Tablante goal just after halftime made it 1-1. Alex Freeman conceded a penalty in the 77th minute, which was converted by Ibrahim Kasule for the winning goal.
OCB Head Coach Martin Perelman made three changes from the team that won 3-2 over Chicago Fire II last weekend. Two of the changes were in the back, with Franco Perez and Abdi Salim entering the starting lineup in place of Freeman and Zakaria Taifi. Wilfredo Rivera started in the attack, replacing Shak Mohammed. Freeman, Taifi, and Mohammed were all with the team in New Jersey, starting the game on the bench.
The back line in front of goalkeeper Javier Otero included Imanol Almaguer, Nabi Kibunguchy, Salim, and Perez. Cristian Medina, Tablante, Juninho, and Jhon Solis were in the midfield, while Rivera partnered Jack Lynn up top.
Both teams had stretches where they looked like the better side in this one. OCB was the better team early in each half, but the Red Bulls played their way back into the game, eventually being the more threatening side. In the end, it was poor defending that did OCB in. The first goal came off a bad giveaway by Kibunguchy and the second from a poor challenge by Freeman.
OCB attempted to get off to a quick start, going forward from the kickoff. The ball was played out wide for Tablante, who sent a cross into the box. It bounced through multiple players, eventually ending up with Almaguer, who sent a strong shot towards goal, but it was just wide.
New York had its first chance in the fourth minute when a Kasule pass into the box for Omar Valencia was knocked out of play by Rivera. Kasule took the ensuing corner kick, which was headed away by Lynn. It went to Valencia, who took an ambitious shot from long distance, but he sent it well wide of the goal.
In the 12th minute, Rivera lost the ball near the Red Bulls box and OCB almost paid for the loss of possession. Ronald Donkor sent Carmona down the left and the midfielder sent a cross into the box for Kasule. The attacker found space between the two center backs, but the pass was behind him and Juninho cleared it away.
OCB nearly opened the scoring in the 27th minute when O’Vonte Mullings and Copeland Berkley double-teamed Solis near the end line and the OCB midfielder won a corner kick. Kibunguchy was left unmarked on Rivera’s ensuing set piece, meeting the cross with his head. The center back redirected the ball towards goal, but sent it just wide.
In the 32nd minute, a bad giveaway in the back by OCB resulted in the game’s first goal. Kibunguchy attempted to play the ball up the left sideline, but sent it into the chest of Mullings. The attacker did well to control the ball and sent it across for Carmona. No OCB defenders stepped up to challenge the midfielder about 30 yards from goal, so he took a shot. Otero’s view might have been slightly obstructed by multiple players, and the ball went into the corner to give New York a 1-0 lead.
Both teams had a chance to score in the 38th minute. Donkor first found Mullings in the box. Salim got in front of the Red Bulls’ shot, blocking it to Perez, and the defender sent it forward, where Lynn flicked it on for Solis. Rivera was sprinting down the middle of the field unmarked and Solis played it between two defenders, but could not get it to his teammate.
OCB had another chance to equalize in the 40th minute when Matthew Nocita fouled Lynn near the Red Bulls box. Juninho stepped up to take the set piece, attempting to curl the ball inside the near post. He didn’t miss the target by much, but the shot was wide.
Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Otero was too casual with the ball and almost conceded a second goal. Standing with the ball at his feet, Carmona challenged the goalkeeper. Otero tried to tap the ball past him, but Carmona blocked it to Frank Ssebufu. The striker took a first-touch shot from outside of the box, sending it off the post.
Salim cleared the ball, but New York retained possession. An eventual cross was cleared away by Almaguer and OCB went the other way. Solis nearly lost the ball at midfield, but was able to find Rivera. The attacker created space for a shot, sending it straight into the arms of AJ Marcucci. That was the last action of the first half as OCB went into the break down 1-0.
OCB ended the first half with more possession (57%-43%), but Red Bulls II had more chances, outshooting the Young Lions, 5-4. New York had more corners (2-1) and crosses (10-2), while OCB had better passing accuracy (75%-72.7%). Both teams put one shot on target, with Red Bulls II putting its accurate shot in for the lone first-half goal.
The Young Lions got the second half off to the best possible start. While Juninho thought he’d been fouled and was arguing with the referee, Solis beat Stroud and sent a curling ball with the outside of his right foot for Tablante making a run. Marcucci came way out of his box to clear it, but Tablante got to the ball first, tapping it around the goalkeeper. All Tablante had to do was send an accurate ball on goal, which he did, evening the game at 1-1.
OCB nearly had another chance in the 50th minute when Davi Alexandre’s pass to Stroud was blocked by Juninho. The ball went forward to Lynn, who played it back to Juninho and made a run behind the back line. Juninho sent Lynn through on goal, but he didn’t get the ball off his foot quick enough, and Lynn was ruled offside.
In the 54th minute, Carmona sent Ssebufu down the right. The striker sent a low cross towards the back post, where Donkor was making a run unmarked. It would’ve been a tap-in for Donkor, but Otero jumped off his line to snatch the ball before it could reach him.
A minute later, a poor clearance by Otero gave Mullings possession in the OCB third of the field. His low cross towards the top of the box was left by Kasule for Carmona near the penalty spot. Fortunately, Carmona was unable to get over the ball, sending it well over the target.
OCB had a chance to take its first lead in the 58th minute when Juninho’s long shot was blocked out of play by Berkley for a goal kick. Tablante’s ensuing set piece was flicked on by the heel of Lynn to Perez, who was waiting at the top of the six-yard box. But the defender couldn’t get his foot to it and the Young Lions just missed a second goal.
Perelman made his first change of the game in the 66th minute, as Freeman came into the game for Rivera. Usually the starting right back, Freeman moved into the midfield in front of Perez.
New York retook the lead in the 75th minute when Carmona’s pass to Valencia split a pair of OCB defenders. Freeman was caught in a bad position, but stuck a leg out in an attempt to knock the ball away. Valencia went down and referee Austin Saini immediately pointed to the spot.
It initially looked like Carmona would take the penalty, but Kasule took it instead. Otero dove to his left, but Kasule put the ball right down the middle and in to give Red Bulls II a 2-1 lead.
Needing a goal with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Perelman made his second change an attacking one, as Mohammed came into the game for Perez. As a result, Freeman dropped back into his natural right back role.
New York nearly had an opportunity at a third goal in the 83rd minute when Mullings played the ball around Tablante to himself and beat Medina to the end line. He sent a low cross to the near post where Mohammed Sofo was making a run. However, Salim slid in to knock the ball out of play before it could reach Sofo, likely saving a goal.
Perelman made his third and final change in the 87th minute with Favian Loyola coming on for Lynn. It was a frustrating night for the MLS NEXT Pro’s leading goal scorer, as Lynn was unable to create many chances.
The fourth official displayed three minutes of second-half stoppage time, but the teams could only combine for one shot in the dying moments, a Sofo attempt that was well off target. OCB attempted to lift balls into the box, but couldn’t connect and lost the match.
The second half was similar to the first, with OCB ending the game with more possession (54.9%-45.1%) and New York with more shots (9-8). The hosts had more crosses (18-8) and the Young Lions had better passing accuracy (74.8%-72.8%). Both teams had four corner kicks and two shots on target.
OCB and Red Bulls II were tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference heading into this game. The result sees the Young Lions drop to fifth with just eight games remaining in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season. Seven teams make the postseason and OCB is currently five points ahead of Huntsville City FC for that final spot in the East.
The Young Lions will have a short week as they continue their road trip Saturday night at DRV PNK Stadium against Inter Miami II.