There’s no getting around it – Orlando City B had a less-than-ideal start to the year. Three losses and a draw in their first four games made for a rude awakening in their first USL season.
It seems, though, that the tide has turned for the Lions.
OCB went down 1-0 in the first half Saturday to a Charlotte Independence team that had lost just once since the beginning of April and fought back to earn their second straight win.
“I’ve said it all along, I firmly believe that this group of players is going to get better as the season goes on,” head coach Anthony Pulis said. “It’s not easy throwing a group of players together from scratch when nobody knows each other, nobody knows how each other plays… It was always going to take time.”
But what’s more impressive about the comeback win were the players that orchestrated it.
With starting defenders Devron García and Conor Donovan joining Harrison Heath and Hadji Barry with the MLS team in New York – and starting goalkeeper Mark Ridgers away getting married – OCB relied on its even younger talent to earn its 10th point in its last five games and jump into the early playoff picture.
Goalkeeper Jake Fenlason made his first professional start, posted two saves and performed “magnificently,” according to Pulis. 17-year-old Pierre Da Silva “worked his socks off,” scoring his first professional goal and later notching his first pro assist on Craig Nitti’s first goal in purple.
“I think the other thing as well is they’re a little more confident. At the start I felt a few of them were a little bit apprehensive and didn’t think they maybe were good enough to play at this level or we were good enough as a team,” Pulis said. “I think the last few games we’ve definitely shown what I believed at the start that we do have a good group of players that can definitely compete at this level.”
Since starting 1-4-1, the Lions have put together a strong showing on their six-game home stand. They got on track with a win over FC Montreal, a two-goal comeback to draw Bethlehem Steel FC and a decisive victory over the defending champion Rochester Rhinos before Saturday’s win over Charlotte.
OCB closes out the home stand Sunday against first-place Louisville City FC – Orlando City’s former USL affiliate.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Da Silva, who was named to the USL Team of the Week. “We lost to them over there but hopefully we just keep going.”