Faced with a must-win season finale, Orlando City B (9-13-8, 35 points) posted its fifth clean sheet of the season and scored two goals to defeat Bethlehem Steel FC (6-14-10, 28 points) 2-0 on Sunday at Goodman Stadium. Johnny Mendoza’s second goal of 2016 and Lewis Neal’s screamer secured the eighth and final playoff spot in OCB’s inaugural United Soccer League (USL) season.
“I’m absolutely delighted for the players. They’ve worked so hard all year and they’ve been a fantastic group to work with. I’m just delighted that they got something to show for their hard work,” OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis said. “The game wasn’t pretty at times today but they defended well and I’m thrilled for us to keep our clean sheet as well. We’ll enjoy this but we’ll get back to work early next week and we’ll prepare for Red Bulls.”
The Lions had to win today to keep their season alive after the Wilmington Hammerheads, who were one point behind OCB, defeated the Richmond Kickers 2-0 Saturday night.
City began the match with a sense of urgency and found the opening goal early when Mendoza tapped home Michael Cox’s centering pass after the Lions’ leading scorer fought off two defenders as he dribbled through the box in the ninth minute.
OCB got the insurance marker in the 58th minute with an incredible strike from Neal. The Lions' captain corralled a bouncing ball 30 yards from goal, took a touch to chip it over his defender and fired a shot off the volley that arced over a diving Matthew Perrella and under the bar.
With Bethlehem pushing to spoil the Lions’ season, goalkeeper Mark Ridgers turned in one of his best performances of the season. The 26-year-old, who entered the match leading the USL with 101 saves, dove onto several threatening Steel FC crosses and made five strong saves to keep Bethlehem off the scoreboard. In the 66th minute Ridgers sprawled to his right to get a hand on a hard shot from Justin McMaster.
Ridgers was helped by the play of his back line, which featured First Team players Tyler Turner and Tommy Redding. The pair of Homegrown defenders kept Steel FC’s various attacking threats at bay for much of the night. Late in the match and with Bethlehem continuing to press, Turner made a huge clearance as the ball bounced around dangerously in the six-yard box.
OCB was also with First Team players Harrison Heath, who came off in the 73rd minute for fellow MLSer Devron García, 2016 MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Hadji Barry, and Pedro Ribeiro, who is working his way back to the lineup after missing several months with a back injury. Midfielder Richie Laryea and defender Conor Donovan were also in the 18-man lineup.
This was the second meeting of the season between these two teams. On May 7, Bethlehem jumped out to an early two-goal lead. Cox found Turner to cut the deficit in the 17th minute before Turner returned the favor for Cox in the 54th to secure a 2-2 draw.
The Lions head to Harrison, New Jersey, on Sunday, Oct. 2, to take on No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls II in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET at Red Bull Arena.
OCB - Johnny Mendoza (Michael Cox) 9’
OCB - Lewis Neal 58’
OCB - Tyler Turner (Yellow Card) 32’
OCB - Kyle McFadden (Yellow Card) 52’
OCB - Pedro Ribeiro (Yellow Card) 60’
OCB - Andrew Ribeiro (Yellow Card) 66’
BST - Anthony Fontana (Yellow Card) 84’
ORL - Pierre Da Silva (Yellow Card) 89’
BST - James Chambers (Yellow Card) 89’
Orlando City B - GK Mark Ridgers, D Tyler Turner, Tommy Redding, Kyle McFadden, Zach Hayden, M Lewis Neal, Harrison Heath (Devron García 73’), Pedro Ribeiro (Andrew Ribeiro 62’), Johnny Mendoza (Marius Obekop 46’), Pierre Da Silva, F Michael Cox (Hadji Barry 70’)
Substitutes: GK Jake Fenlason, D, Conor Donovan, M Richie Laryea
Bethlehem Steel FC - GK Matthew Perrella, D Mark McKenzie, Nick Bibbs, Boluwatife Akinyode, Taylor Washington, M James Chambers, Derrick Jones, Leo Fernandes (Yosef Samuel 62’), F Eric Ayuk (Anthony Fontana 80’), Justin McMaster (Cole Missimo 73’), Cory Burke (Amoy Brown 67’)
Substitutes: GK Tomas Romero, D Matthew Real, M Josh Heard
Details of the Game
Time: 3 p.m. ET
September 25, 2016
OCB - 4
BTH - 19
OCB - 5
BTH - 0
OCB - 3
BTH - 9