by: This is a press release from the Orlando City Soccer Club Updated:
ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando City Soccer Club’s bid for a second consecutive USL PRO Championship fell short tonight as the Lions fell 4-3 to the Wilmington Hammerheads, eliminating them from the playoffs.
“It was a tough end to the season,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We will recompose ourselves and learn from this.”
Just four minutes in, the Hammerheads were awarded a controversial penalty kick after Hagop Chirishian collided with Miguel Gallardo in the box. Corey Hertzog converted to give Wilmington a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, the Hammerheads struck again. Hertzog found an unmarked Luke Holmes inside the 18. Holmes took a quick touch and beat Gallardo at the near post, stunning the crowd and Gallardo. The second goal appeared to wake up the Lions, who went heavy in the attack to get back in the game.
The task became more difficult when a poor giveaway by Ian Fuller started a Hammerheads counterattack. The Lions appeared to snuff out the chance, but a clearance fell to Chirishian at the top of the 18. The Armenian-American wasted no time and drilled his shot to the near post for a 3-0 lead.
Down by three goals for the first time all season, Adrian Heath’s squad was looking for a spark. They got it from Matt Luzunaris. Replacing Rodrigo Lopez in the 34th minute, Luzunaris was active in the attacking third, willing City to score. The efforts paid off with the former UCF Knight cleaning up a Dennis Chin strike with an off-balance volley. Despite the 3-1 scoreline, the momentum was with the Lions going into the break.
The Lions came out strong to start the second half, hitting the post and forcing several saves. That all changed in the 59th minute, when a poor pass by Jerome Mechack gifted Corey Hertzog a free path to goal. Hertzog netted his second and the game winner.
Orlando was given the advantage in the 64th minute when Dylan Riley head-butted Jamie Watson and was sent off. Orlando was unable to take advantage of the extra player until much too late. Despite Jamie Watson converting a penalty kick and George Davis IV adding another in the final minutes, the clock ran out on City before an equalizer could be found.
Wilmington advances to the USL PRO Championship match against the Charleston Battery next Saturday, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. The Battery advanced to the championship game after a thrilling 4-3 victory in penalty kicks over Richmond.