The Lions went on the road without two key starters, Darwin Cerén and Luke Boden, due to suspensions, to face the Harrisburg City Islanders (8-8-6, 30 points), a team who recently lost only one game in their last seven and rode a three-game win streak heading into tonight’s match.
Nonetheless, Orlando City (15-2-4, 49 points) was coming off a convincing win over Charlotte, becoming the first team to secure a playoff berth in the USL PRO for 2014. Unfortunately, despite a valiant last half offensive charge, the Lions lost 3-2 tonight at Skyline Sports Complex.
City dominated most of possession and dictated the pace of play early in the game. The offence created a number of chances with some great runs toward the net, resulting in a couple of early corner kicks and set plays.
Orlando’s best chance came in the 16th minute as Dennis Chin cleverly chested a ball into the path of a charging Kevin Molino. The Trinidadian fired a shot, forcing a spectacular save from Nicholas Noble to keep the Lions off the score sheet.
Lady luck however, turned her back. After receiving a free kick outside the penalty box, Harrisburg’s Derschang curled an unstoppable shot into the upper 90 beyond an outstretched Gallardo in the 20th minute. In the 29th minute, Antoine Hoppenot was tackled by Adama Mbengue just inside the penalty area, and the Islanders were awarded a penalty shot. Derschang converted to post a brace for the match.
The early part of the second half was just as challenging. Following a missed penalty kick by Hoppenot in the 46th minute, he found the back of the net by sliding a ball past Gallardo in the 53rd minute for Harrisburg’s final tally of the match.
After a few key substitutions by Head Coach Adrian Heath, the Lions’ intensity notably increased as the team built solid plays, made good runs into space and opened scoring opportunities in the Islanders’ defense. In the 81st minute, Molino added to his league scoring title chase by redirecting a crossed header from Justin Clark into the back of the net. Six minutes later, Mbengue slid a precise line to Giusepe Gentile – who found the net for the first time as a Lion since joining the team in July.
Commenting on the performance after the match, Coach Heath said, “It started slowly and in difficult conditions for both teams. I thought they wanted to win the game more than we did and (our effort) was too little too late. The last two or three weeks, our away form has been very concerning. We’ll have to improve it if we want to do what we want to achieve. Otherwise it will be a big disappointment.”