Orlando City B will begin its second season in the United Soccer League (USL) against the expansion Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, March 25. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Al Lang Stadium.
The match will be streamed online at www.OrlandoCitySC.com/LIVE
“We’re really excited, it’s been a long offseason. And obviously to open up at the Rowdies is a really exciting game for us. It’ll be a little bit of added spice with it being a local derby but we’re really excited,” OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis. “To play in this derby means a lot, especially to our hardcore supporters that have been here from Day 1. We’ve made the players aware that this is a really important game, not just for us and the Club but the supporters.”
OCB kicks off its 2017 campaign in St. Pete looking to build off an inaugural USL season that saw the Lions qualify for the USL Cup Playoffs on its season finale. The Lions bounced back from a slow start with a nine-game unbeaten streak that stretched from June 11 to Aug. 6. The Lions then punched their playoff ticket in their must-win season finale when veteran midfielder Lewis Neal fired home a volley from distance at Bethlehem on Sept. 25.
Striker Michael Cox led the 2016 OCB squad with 11 goals, tied for eighth in the USL, while chipping in three assists. In his first season as a professional, midfielder Pierre Da Silva led the team with five assists and signed a First Team contract on Jan. 20, becoming the first player to climb from the Orlando City Development Academy to OCB to the MLS team.
A busy offseason saw OCB bring in several exciting players, headlined by 2016 USL Cup champion and All-USL Second Team defender Zach Carroll, U.S. youth national teamers Ryley Kraft and Joe Gallardo and 2016 MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Ben Polk. The Lions also signed 2014 NCAA national champion defender Scott Thomsen and former Orlando City U-23 Paul Clowes.
The match will be the first official match in the I-4 Derby since the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, when City, then in the USL PRO, dispatched the Rowdies, then in the NASL, by a final score of 4-1 in the third round. Pulis entered that match in the 70th minute. Adding fuel to the rivalry are long-time Lions defender Luke Boden and forward Martin Paterson. Both players were part of City’s inaugural MLS squad in 2015 and Boden spent six years in Orlando.
OCB will play all its home games at the new Orlando City Stadium. The privately financed soccer-specific stadium features a natural grass playing surface and a four-sided canopy roof to keep the noise in and weather out. Located on Church Street, fans will also be able to experience North America’s first and only safe-standing supporter section.
Orlando City B will make its debut in Orlando City Stadium against Louisville City FC on Thursday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. ET. OCB tickets are available here or by calling 855-ORL-CITY.