Lions Clinch Home Game in Quarterfinals

Orlando City level with Richmond for 1st place with 3 games remaining
by Danny Morales   |   Thursday, August 08, 2013

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

Rob Valentino scored the eventual game-winner in the final 10 minutes of play as Orlando City defeated VSI Tampa Bay 3-2 on Wednesday, Aug. 7, in front of an announced crowd of 5,985 at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Citrus Bowl.

Orlando guarantees itself a home game in the quarterfinals of the USL PRO playoffs with the win.

Freddie Braun was Wednesday’s Man of the Match with 2 assists for the match, while also being involved in Tampa Bay’s own-goal.

Orlando City had plenty of opportunities early on, including a shot on target by Dennis Chin in the 17th minute that was saved by Tampa Bay goalkeeper Alex Horwath. Chin finished the night with a match-high 3 shots.

“I’ve said to him (Chin), I’ve said to Long Tan, I’ve said to Jean Alexandre,  that if C.J.’s (Sapong) not here, one of them needs to step up,” said Orlando City manager Adrian Heath about the 2012 USL PRO leading scorer. “Chinny’s proved he can score goals at this level, he was top goal scorer in the league last year.”

VSI Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute when Chad Burt scored off of a save by Miguel Gallardo that fell at Burt’s feet for his 4th goal of the season.

Orlando came right back with an equalizer in the 32nd minute when defender Renan Boufleur headed in the Braun free kick for Boufleur’s 2nd goal since joining the club in July.

The teams went into the locker rooms tied at 1-1 after the first 45 minutes, despite Orlando City outshooting Tampa Bay 7-4.

“I always thought we we’re going to win the game,” said Heath after the game. “But I never felt comfortable all evening.”

Orlando City took a 2-1 lead in the 51st minute thanks to an own-goal from Tampa Bay defender Cheyne Roberts, which came off a deflection of a Braun cross that was intended for Alexandre inside the 6-yard box.

Shawn Chin tied the game at 2-2 for Tampa Bay in the 69th minute of play when he curled a shot over Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo, off the crossbar and into the goal.

Valentino put Orlando City back on top when he scored his 5th goal of the season on a header off of a Braun corner kick, giving Orlando a 3-2 lead in the 80th minute of play.

The Lions scored 2 of their 3 goals off of set pieces, which is something the club hadn’t been able to capitalize on earlier in the season.

“It’s something that we emphasize just because we get so many in a game,” said Braun regarding set pieces.

Orlando’s record now improves to 14-3-6 with 48 points, putting the Lions in a tie for 1st place in the USL PRO standings with the Richmond Kickers (13-1-9, 48 points).

In the event of a tie for the top spot at the end of the season, head-to-head results would be the 1st tiebreaker, with goal-differential being the 2nd tiebreaker used. The Lions currently lead the Kickers by plus-5 in goal differential as of Thursday night.

Orlando City plays the Kickers, on the road, one last time before the season ends in a matchup that could decide the regular season champion. Orlando lost to Richmond 2-0 in their only previous matchup this year.

“We take each game as it comes,” said Heath about the matchup with Richmond. “The next important game for us is going to be Seattle, because if we don’t win that game then it might not matter what happens at Richmond.”

The Lions can clinch home-field advantage through the semifinals with a loss or tie from the Charleston Battery on Thursday, or a win over the Seattle Sounders Reserves on Sunday.

Tickets for Orlando’s quarterfinal playoff game go on sale Thursday, August 8, and can be purchased from OrlandoCitySoccer.com.

NEXT UP: August 11 - Orlando City SC vs. Seattle Sounders Reserves, Fifth Third Bank Field at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. 7:30 p.m. EST, USL Nation.

Danny MORALES

Nationality:
USA
College:
Valencia College
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid
Former athlete turned journalist who remembers the days of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, Danny now writes Orlando City news while chronicling the clubs move to become an MLS franchise.
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