ORLANDO, Fla. - A late header by Forward Matt Luzunaris secured a 1-1 draw for Orlando City Soccer Club against the Wilmington Hammerheads Wednesday night at the Florida Citrus Bowl in front of a crowd of 6,013, moving the Lions within a point of securing a first-round bye for the Lions in the 2012 USL PRO playoffs.
“We controlled the ball all evening,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We just couldn’t capitalize on any of the chances we had tonight. The first goal by Wilmington really hurt us. Our boys don’t realize how important that first goal is.”
Orlando City proved to be the dominant team in the first half, outshooting Wilmington 16-3 in the first 45 minutes. Orlando’s greatest chance in the first half came in the 22nd minute, when Jean Alexandre received a give-and-go from Midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, with the Delray Beach, Fla. native blasting it inches over the opposing goal.
The second half began with a foul that left Wilmington with two yellow cards and Orlando a golden chance to score. Driving into the box, Kevin Molino was fouled by Hammerheads Defender Dylan Riley inside the 6-yard box, resulting in a penalty kick for the Lions. Two Hammerheads were given yellow cards for dissent following the call, adding to the anticipation of the penalty.
Rodrigo Lopez attempted the PK, only to have the low-roller saved by Wilmington Goalkeeper Alex Horwath to keep the scoreline even. That miss would haunt the Lions just minutes later.
Wilmington got their first real chance of the game in the 68th minute, converting the counterattack when it counted. A long ball from the Wilmington back line found Midfielder Bryce Taylor, who maneuvered around two Orlando defenders and blasted a shot in the upper left corner just inside the 18’ to give the Hammerheads the 1-0 lead.
Despite the goal, Orlando continued to attack, resulting in the Lions first goal of the night. Charging on the right side of the pitch, Dennis Chin laid a wonderful cross to a streaking Matt Luzunaris, whose header went past Horwath to equalize the match at 1-1 with only six minutes left in regulation.
The two clubs continued to go back and forth, and in spite of the continued offensive pressure by City, it ended match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Orlando squares off against the Charleston Battery on Friday, July 27, at the Florida Citrus Bowl with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. The two clubs have met twice previously this season, with Orlando taking both victories. The last win came just a week ago, with the Lions taking a thrilling 2-1 win in the final seconds over the Battery.
A win over Charleston will give Orlando the 2012 USL PRO regular season title and home field advantage in the postseason, including the potential USL PRO Championship Game. For information on Friday’s home game in Charleston and more, visit www.orlandocitysoccer.com.