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Orlando City B made their United Soccer League (USL) debut at Eastern Florida State College’s Titan Soccer Complex against the Wilmington Hammerheads on Saturday evening in front of a passionate fan base who supported the Lions through a 45 minute rain delay. Despite dominating the scoring chances, out-shooting Wilmington 11-8, the Hammerheads earned a tight 2-1 victory.
“I thought we had good plays in areas but our final decision was not on point tonight, but I’m not going to be a coach who gets too high when things go well and I’m not going to be a coach who gets too low when things don’t go well,” said Head Coach Anthony Pulis. “I’m going try to get the guys on a leveling playing field, we’ll regroup and learn from this and get everyone prepared for the next game.”
The match featured the coaching debut of OCB head coach Anthony Pulis and assistant coach Rob Valentino, both former Orlando City SC standouts. It also included the professional debuts of 17-year-old Orlando City Academy product Pierre DaSilva, Major League Soccer SuperDraft selection midfielder Richie Laryea and fullback Zach Ellis-Hayden, as well as the first professional start for former University of Central Florida striker, Hadji Barry, and return in purple of midfielder Johnny Mendoza and captain Lewis Neal.
Both sides shared the possession and attacking chances during the first half without really threatening the scoresheet. The Mikey Ambrose-Pierre DaSilva combination down the left side created most of the opportunities for City in the first 45, including OCB’s best chance right before the break. DaSilva, the 17-year-old winger, connected with Ambrose down the left flank with a clever lofted pass, and the fullback found 2016 Major League SuperDraft seventh overall selection Richie Laryea at the edge of the box, but his shot was deflected inches off the far post.
Wilmington opened the scoring early in the second half from a corner kick, when defender Ashani Fairclough’s excellent diving header found the back of the net in the 46th minute of play. City responded quickly, leveling the fixture 10 minutes later as midfielder Andrew Ribeiro (pictured above) scored OCB’s first goal in USL with a powered a right-footed strike past Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits.
The Hammerheads then retook the lead in the 65th minute when Logan Miller’s speculative shot from distance found the back of Earl Edwards Jr.’s net.
Pulis then made some attacking changes in search of an equalizer as he introduced attackers Bryan Róchez, William Eyang, Marius Obekop and midfielder Mendoza in the final 20 minutes but Wilmington managed to hang on to take the points.
Pulis rounded off the evening with a comment that OCB fans would do well to remember, “We have just had a round of applause in the dressing room as we had five players making their professional debuts tonight.” It was a revealing moment for Lions fans who are used to winning in this league.
Orlando City B plays its second match of the 2016 USL season when they host the Charleston Battery on Friday, April 1, at Eastern Florida State College’s Titan Soccer Complex. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Orlando City B – GK Earl Edwards Jr., D Mikey Ambrose, Craig Nitti, Kyle Callan McFadden, Zach Ellis-Hayden, M Lewis Neal, Andrew Ribeiro, Tony Rocha (Johnny Mendoza 78’), Pierre DaSilva (Marius Obekop 78’), F Hadji Barry (William Eyang 66’), Richie Laryea (Bryan Rochez 69’).
Substitutes: GK Mark Ridgers, D Tyler Turner, M, F Keegan Smith
Wilmington Hammerheads – GK John Smits, D Tom Parrat, Ashani Fairclough (Michael Mecham 63’), Bruno Peroni, Ferrety Sousa, M Mael Corboz, Logan Miller, Liam Miller (Zev Taublieb 81’), Jeff Michaud (Kyle Parker 87’), F Josue Currais Prieto (Justin Moose 53’), Qudos Lawal (Matthew Barnes-Homer 70’)
Substitutes – GK Erik Ati, M Bruce Taylor
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com