(Photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)

Match Recap

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City B needed a win to advance to their second-consecutive United Soccer League playoffs. And in a regular-season finale against their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the USL Lions had everything to play for. Unfortunately for OCB (10-10-12, 42 points), their neighbors down I-4 came away with a 2-0 victory at Orlando City Stadium Thursday night in front of 1,185 fans.

“I hate to say it, but we didn’t deserve to win tonight, in my opinion, from the performance that we put in,” OCB captain Lewis Neal said after the loss. “But I go back to the rest of the season, and I thought, as a whole, everybody’s been absolutely fantastic, and [it’s] been an absolute pleasure working and playing and working with them—all the staff, all the players involved with OCB this year.

“It doesn’t feel great now, but hopefully we’ll look back on it with a few fonder memories in a few more days’ time.”

Tampa Bay had the match’s defining moment with a 75th-minute score. The Rowdies’ Marcel Schäfer delivered a corner from the right toward the top of the six-yard box for Georgi Hristov to head past OCB goalkeeper Jake Fenlason.

Sebastián Guenzatti scored Tampa Bay’s second goal in second-half stoppage time to solidify their win.

“I just think our general decision-making on the ball, our quality on the ball, our final ball in that, you know, mid to final third just wasn’t good enough. It was as simple as that,” Neal said. “I mean, we didn’t connect, we wasn’t on the same page. You know, there was no continuity within our movement and our passing like there has been for a lot of games.”

OCB opened the game early with an 11th-minute chance saved by Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Forward Hadji Barry received the ball from Neal near the top-right part of Tampa Bay’s box. A couple touches into the box later, and Barry unloaded a low shot to the far post for Pickens to save.

In the 23rd minute, it was Fenlason’s turn to shine between the posts. Tampa Bay earned a free kick about 10 yards outside the top-right part of OCB’s box, granting Schäfer the Rowdies’ lone on-target attempt in the first half. The free kick was laid off to Schäfer, who two-hopped it toward Fenlason to dive to his right and parry the ball away.

Ten minutes later, Schäfer earned another near-goal effort, courtesy of quick, exposing passing. After Schäfer received the ball near midfield, he evaded a defender and led left-back Zachary Portillos down the left flank. Portillos centered it back to Schäfer, who one-timed it off the crossbar. The ball was reinserted by Tampa Bay, but the ball was headed away.

In the 70th minute, OCB had perhaps its best chance. Second-half substitute Danny Deakin drove the ball down the left-middle flank and led forward Michael Cox into space. Cox then crossed the ball with precision to Austin Martz, whose one-timer went errantly into the stands.

Man of the Match: MF Marcel Schäfer

Schäfer finished the match with a match-high four shots (one on goal) and assisted on the opening goal of the match in the 75th minute. He was also responsible for a shot off the crossbar and had Tampa Bay’s lone on-target shot off a free kick in the first half. Schäfer finished the match completing 87.8 percent of his 41 passes and recording a tackle and drawing one foul.

Anthony Pulis, Lewis Neal Unsure of Return to OCB in 2018

Following the match, there was uncertainty from two of OCB’s leaders: head coach Anthony Pulis and Neal, the captain. Pulis was brief in his remarks about his future.

“I don’t know [if I’ll be head coach of OCB] next year,” Pulis said after the match. “There’s gonna be discussions, I would imagine, in the next week or two, and we’ll see what happens.”

Said Neal on his return: “I have no idea what next year holds for me. I’m in the same boat as Ant, and I’ll have to wait and see what comes from the front-office people, what direction they wanna take and what they would like to do with me.

“I mean, personally, I would like to continue playing. I mean, 36 aside, I feel like I can still play with these young guys day in and day out on a weekly basis, and I certainly have that desire and that passion to still wanna go out there and train every day and play, so, you know, I don’t wanna stop playing, but it’s not always in my control, that, unfortunately.”

What’s next?

OCB’s season ends with a loss to Tampa Bay.

Highlights

NDR Notes

Scoring

Time Team Goal-scorer Assisted by
74’ Tampa Bay Rowdies

Georgi Hristov

 

Marcel Schäfer

 

90’+3’ Tampa Bay Rowdies Sebastián Guenzatti n/a

Statistics and Starting Lineups

Goals Assists Shots Shots on Goal Possession %
Orlando City B 0 0 7 2 46.4%
Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 1 14 3 53.6%

Orlando City B starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jake Fenlason (GK); Kevin Alston, Fernando Timbó, Zach Carroll, Zach Ellis-Hayden; Lewis Neal (C), Tony Rocha; Pierre da Silva, Jordan Schweitzer, Hadji Barry; Michael Cox

Tampa Bay Rowdies (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens (GK); Zachary Portillos, Neill Collins, Hunter Gorskie, Darnell King; Marcel Schäfer, Martin Vingaard; Georgi Hristov, Joe Cole (C), Walter Restrepo; Sebastián Guenzatti


For more on OCB and the upcoming offseason and 2018 season, follow Victor Tan on Twitter at @NDR_VictorTan.

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