After building its first winning streak of the season, Orlando City B is brimming with confidence.
“If you look at the last five games we’ve had at home now, we’ve had three wins, a loss and a draw,” OCB head coach Anthony Pulis said. “We’re pleased with that.”
It’s the most obvious indication that the Lions are finally hitting their stride, but there are signs aplenty pointing to that.
As simple as it sounds, keeping 11 players on the field has been a big help. The Lions have gone down to 10 men four times and dropped to nine against Harrisburg City.
Since May 4 against Cincinnati, though – when goalkeeper Mark Ridgers was essentially forced to foul in the box – OCB has kept a full compliment on the pitch. The Lions have picked up seven of nine possible points since then.
But perhaps the most important change is the morale of the group.
“It’s difficult, when you throw a new group of players together, to get everybody to gel and click and understand how everybody wants to play,” Pulis said. “New guys, young guys coming into the league weren’t sure if they could handle it at this level and I think the last few games they have.
“They bought in from Day 1,” Pulis said. “The difference now is we’ve had a couple results. We’re in good form. There’s no getting around that.”
As they play more games and get more minutes, the group earns more and more confidence. With that confidence comes an elevated level of play, and with that come the wins.
It builds on itself.
“We’ve started to get to know each other,” midfielder Lewis Neal said. “There’s still a fair way to go, we can still be a lot better. We’re just looking to push up now.”
They’ll look to continue the push Sunday against first-place Louisville City FC. LouCity is coming into the match on a nine-game unbeaten run and went the entire month of May without allowing a goal. Louisville defeated Orlando City B 4-1 in Louisville on April 9. But this matchup is in Melbourne, where the Lions went 3-1-1 in May.
Aside from playoff implications, these teams are very familiar with each other. Louisville City was Orlando City’s USL affiliate last season, they’re coached by former Orlando City player James O’Connor and they play a similar formation as Orlando City. Their primary color is even purple.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” said Pulis, who was teammates with O’Connor during his Orlando City days. “We have a similar way that we want to play and we want to set our teams up. It’s going to be interesting this week.”
It’s a daunting task, but for perhaps the first time this season, the Lions will be ready.
“Winning breeds confidence.”