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Orlando City B fell 1-0 to Harrisburg City Islanders in blustery conditions at Titan Soccer Complex this evening.
Orlando started the game with just four fit defenders and that caused a reshuffle as Tyler Turner was asked to fill in at the unfamiliar role of left back. The match also saw the first start for the Honduran duo, Bryan Róchez and Devron Garcia, with Róchez up top and Garcia at right back. Michael Cox, who scored his first goal in OCB’s previous match, got the nod to play alongside Róchez.
The City Islanders started the game on the offensive and only another solid performance from OCB goalkeeper Mark Ridgers kept the visitors at bay. The Scottish keeper picked up where he left off in the previous home game against Charleston Battery as he made two impressive first half saves to deny the away side taking an interval lead.
OCB didn’t really create anything of note in a dull first half but match referee Rubiel Vazquez provided the main talking point of the first 45 minutes when he sent midfielder Tony Rocha off in a 50-50 challenge that better referees might not have even produced a yellow card for.
Harrisburg took advantage of the extra man to open the scoring in the 59th minute as winger Cardel Benbow received a pass on the right flank, dribbled his way into the box and found the back of the net with a neat left-footed strike. The teams then battled for control of the game and slowly but surely the intensity of the contest reached boiling point in the final moments as OCB captain Lewis Neal was sent off after accumulating a second yellow card in the second half.
Nine man Orlando then almost grabbed a dramatic equalizer with the last kick of the game as second-half substitute Marius Obekop almost saw his cross come shot loop into the net but Islanders’ goalkeeper Nick Noble was just able to touch it over the crossbar.
“The guys worked hard. I don’t ever question their togetherness and their willingness to keep going and never give in, and they obviously did that. We ended up with nine [players] and it’s difficult, but we were firm in the back and they didn’t give up, and I can’t question that at all,” said Head Coach Anthony Pulis. “I thought Bryan [Róchez] did well. Tonight I gave him the start because I felt like he was ready, and it was positive, and I am sure he will only get stronger from here on. Tyler [Turner] also did well tonight, he is a good player, we have to remember that he is very young, but he has a ton of potential, he is very good going forward and he is continuously improving defensively.”
OCB will travel to Pittsburgh for their next match, when they face the Riverhounds at the Highmark Stadium on Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m. ET. The Lions return home after consecutive road games to play Montreal on May 1 at the Titan Soccer Complex. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com
Orlando City B – GK Mark Ridgers, D Devron García, Craig Nitti, Kyle McFadden, Tyler Turner, M Tony Rocha, Lewis Neal, Johnny Mendoza, Richie Laryea (Pierre Da Silva 81’), F Bryan Róchez (Marius Obekop 66’), Michael Cox
Substitutes: GK Jake Fenlason, M Alejandro Garcia, F William Eyang, Keegan Smith
Harrisburg City Islanders – GK Nick Noble, D James Thomas, Liam Doyle, Dante Leverock, Shawn McClaws, M Cardel Benbow (Josh Hughes 77’), Bobby Warshaw, Mouhamed Dabo, Jose Barril, F Paul Wilson, Craig Foster (Aaron Wheeler 70’)
Substitutes: GK Keagel Broome, D Shane Campbell, Shane Johnson, M Matthew Bolduc, F Brett Jonkouskas