ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orlando City SC took down the Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-2 Saturday night at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., capturing the inaugural I-4 Derby presented by United World Soccer on aggregate 6-4. More than 150 Orlando City supporters travelled to see the Lions hoist the I-4 trophy, which wraps up the 2013 preseason for the Lions.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I’m pleased for our players as they worked really hard tonight, and I’m really pleased for the supporters as they’ve been unbelievable. This one is for them.“
The Lions didn’t take very long to get on the scoreboard, with a well placed through ball by Midfielder Adama Mbengue to a charging Kevin Molino giving Orlando the early advantage. The 2012 USL PRO MVP found the pass in stride right outside the 18-yard box from Mbengue, rounding Rowdies Goalkeeper Andrew Fontein in the 5th minute to put the Lions up 1-0.
Orlando kept pushing on the attack, with it paying off in the 32nd minute. Forward and Sporting loanee Dom Dwyer blasted a shot that was deflected by Tampa’s Fontein, only for Mbengue to put in the follow up – giving Orlando the two goal advantage.
Tampa responded just before halftime, with a penalty kick conversion by Defender Tayuka Yamada in the 41st cutting down the Lions’ lead to one. Defender Rob Valentino entangled with a Tampa striker inside the Orlando18-yard box, with the referee pointing to the penalty spot immediately after both fell from the collision. Yamada slid it by Goalkeeper Jon Kempin, who made his first start for Orlando since being loaned from affiliate Sporting Kansas City, to give the Rowdies some hope before half.
Tampa kicked off the second half with another score, this time from Forward Amani Walker. The striker received a well-placed chip from a Rowdies midfielder, placing it past Kempin to tie the match at 2-2 in the 50th minute.
After the Rowdies quick two scores, Orlando’s defense tightened in the later part of the second half, not allowing Tampa to gain solid footing on the offensive side of the ball. A late goal by Dwyer secured the win and championship for Orlando, slotting the ball from 18 yards out in the 90th minute to give Orlando the 3-2 advantage and 6-4 on aggregate.
Orlando now turns their attention to the 2013 USL PRO regular season, with the Lions traveling to Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University to face expansion side Phoenix FC on Sunday, April 7. The match will be streamed on UNation. For more information leading up to the regular season opener in Phoenix, visit Orlandocitysoccer.com.