by: Orlando City Soccer Club Updated:
ORLANDO, Fla. - Despite being down a goal at halftime, Orlando City rallied back to beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-2 in the first leg of the I-4 Derby sponsored by United World Soccer at the Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl Saturday night. The Lions scored in the 49th, 58th and 70th minutes and withstood a late score by the Rowdies to complete the comeback victory.
“Our response in the second half was positive, we moved the ball quickly and opened them up,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “The game could’ve been out of sight with the amount of chances we had, but certainly glad of the 3-2 result after being down 1-nil at halftime.“
Orlando put the pressure on the Tampa Bay side early and often, creating chances for the Lions in the first half. Midfielder Jamie Watson was on the end of a few scoring chances in the first 10 minutes, having two shots on goal with one skipping inches left of the post for the Lions.
Tampa got on the board first, however, with a bad giveaway from the Orlando City backline leading to the score. Tampa Bay Forward Amani Walker took advantage of the poor passing by the City backline, slotting home the goal to give the Rowdies a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
City continued to pressure throughout the rest of the first half, with the Lions holding a 12 -2 advantage in shots as the halftime whistle blew with the Rowdies still ahead by one.
Orlando got on the board immediately starting the second half, with Watson converting a corner kick to even the score line at 1-1. New signee Freddie Braun attempted the corner leading to the score, with the midfielder slotting home the goal.
The Lions offensive continued, with another goal coming in the 58th minute for Orlando. After Forward Long Tan’s strike was deflected back in the middle of the pitch by Tampa Goalkeeper Andrew Fontein, Midfielder James O’Connor half-volleyed the deflection into the lower left-hand corner to give Orlando the 2-1 advantage. Forward Jean Alexandre also got on the scoreboard in the second half, with the striker chipping his breakaway opportunity up and over Fontein for the score and 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay wasn’t done, with 2011 USL PRO Rookie of the Year Luke Mulholland converting on a free kick in the 75th to put the Rowdies back in contention. The consistent Orlando attack was too much as the game wore on, with the match ending in a 3-2 victory for the Lions.
The Lions continue the 2013 preseason in a series of collegiate friendlies, starting with University of Stetson this Wednesday, March 13, at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford, Fla. Orlando will also meet Florida Gulf Coast, Rollins College and the University of Tampa before the Lions square off against the Rowdies in the second leg of the I-4 Derby presented by United World Soccer in St. Petersburg, Fla., at Al Lang Stadium on March 30.