Orlando City SC (13-3-6, 45 points) handed cross-state VSI Tampa Bay FC (9-9-4, 31 points) a 3-0 defeat Sunday night at Plant City Stadium in Plant City, Fla. Orlando clinched a playoff spot for the 2013 USL PRO postseason, which begins the weekend of August 23-25.
“It’s a great response from the players tonight after Saturday night,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We regrouped today and put fresh legs in, getting some really good performances. We have to focus in on Wednesday’s match, but this certainly puts us on a good platform moving forward.“
Orlando dominated early on, with chances by Defender Justin Clark and Midfielder Freddie Braun in the 6th and 7th minutes, keeping VSI on their toes. It didn’t take long for the Lions to convert, with a wonderful combination play in the 15th minute resulting in Orlando’s first goal.
Sporting Kansas City loanee C.J. Sapong, who is now eligible for the 2013 postseason with this appearance, played a ball into the back post after dribbling through edge of playing surface. Sapong found fellow loanee Christian Duke on the cross, with the midfielder heading it in the lower-left corner to give Orlando the 1-0 advantage. The score was Duke’s first of the season.
Just before the halftime whistle blew, Orlando struck again- with Rob Valentino heading in a Luke Boden free kick to give the Lions a 2-0 advantage going into the locker rooms. After a foul was called just outside the 18-yard box, Boden whipped in an attempt that found a leaping Valentino. The 6’4” defender toppled over the VSI backline, whipping the attempt past Goalkeeper Alexander Horwath for the 2-0 lead.
The Lions continued the high rate of play at the beginning of the second half, with Midfielder Freddie Braun converting in the 53rd minute for the three-goal lead. Braun took advantage of a mismanaged saved by Horwath after multiple Lions had opportunities, blasting his shot in the back of the net.
Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo earned his fifth shutout of the 2013 season in the win, making key saves in the second half to not allow a Tampa goal. The Torreon, Mexico, native currently boasts a goals against average (GAA) of 0.82 heading into the final four matches of the regular season.
With the result, Orlando is guaranteed a quarterfinal appearance in the 2013 USL PRO playoffs-which begin the weekend of August 23-25 alongside seven other teams. Seeding and opponents are TBD. The semi-finals featuring the four remaining teams will be played the following weekend, with the 2013 USL PRO Championship set for the weekend of September 6-8.
All playoff rounds feature a single-game knockout format and teams will not be re-seeded following each round.
Orlando will get ready to take the full six points in the two meetings against Tampa as the teams square off again on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday’s match was originally scheduled for April 30, with severe weather moving the game back to August 7. Ticket stubs from the April 30 game will be valid for August 7.