Lake Buena Vista, Fla- In the first match of the 2014 I-4 Derby, Orlando City SC secured a 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League (NASL) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The victory over the Rowdies on Wednesday night continues the Lions’ undefeated run (4-0-0) against Tampa, dating back to 2013.
“Anything that’s important enough for our supporters is important enough for me and it should be for our players,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the 3-0 victory. “I’m happy for the fans that we got the win in the end, but I still thought that there was a lack of desire on our part.”
Since Orlando City’s arrival to Florida in 2011, an intense rivalry has been formed between the two clubs’ supporter groups, eventually leading to both sides agreeing to a home and away derby in 2013.
The Lions got the better of Tampa last season, as Orlando claimed 3-2 victories both at the Citrus Bowl and at Al Lang Stadium. This year’s home match, however, proved to be a more difficult test as Tampa are closer to regular season form, with the Rowdies already playing three NASL league games.
Midfielder Brian Span and Striker Dennis Chin were catalysts for the initial two chances created by the Lions in the first ten minutes, but the majority of Orlando’s opportunities later in the first-half would come from the left hand side.
The quality chances would begin to occur prior to the 20 minute mark, with left-back Luke Boden providing the Lions’ first clear-cut chance of the match. In the 18th minute, Adama Mbengue found the Englishman all alone inside the Rowdies’ area, and the left-back’s effort looked destined to find the back of the net but ricocheted off the post instead, keeping the score-line level.
Tampa also had a few solid chances in the first 45, and the visitors came close to moving ahead in the 24th minute when Striker Lucky Mkosana’s effort bounced off both posts before being collected by Gallardo.
“The first half could’ve easily been 4-4 because none of our players wanted to do the dirty work,” added Heath. “None of our players wanted to get back and make the tackle that was needed, and I won’t stand for that.”
Nevertheless, the Lions would regain composure and find the back of the net roughly three minutes later via Adama Mbengue. After collecting a pass inside the area from Span, Mbengue employed a bit of trickery to create space for himself before firing the ball into the back of the net past Rowdies’ Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.
Span was also involved for City’s second goal of the half, but this time created an opportunity for his fellow teammate through his initial strike on target. Span skipped past his defender and forced Thompson to parry the ball into Chin’s path, who calmly dinked it over the ‘keeper.
City’s second half play featured less of an emphasis on going forward as the Lions aimed to maintain a clean sheet.
On the other hand, the Rowdies were in search of a crucial away goal and make three key changes at halftime. One of those substitutions made by Tampa Head Coach Ricky Hill included Forward Brian Shriver who led the NASL in goals last season (15).
Shriver had a near-chance in the 50th minute from a Rowdies’ counter-attack, but a well-timed tackle from Defender Justin Clark kept veteran Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo out of harm’s way.
The Rowdies’ strong push forward a goal would eventually lead to another City goal in the 90th minute when Brian Span added the final dagger deep into stoppage time.
With the home win secured, City will head into the away leg on July 6 with a comfortable cushion as Orlando aims to secure a second consecutive I-4 Derby Championship.
The Lions next USL PRO match will take place at home on Sunday, May 4, against OKC Energy FC. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.OrlandoCitySC.com
ORL- Adama Mbengue (Brian Span) 28’
ORL- Dennis Chin (Unassisted) 44’
ORL- Brian Span (Adama Mbengue) 90’
Orlando City SC- GK Miguel Gallardo, D Tyler Turner (Bitielo Jean-Jacques 71’), Justin Clark, Brad Rusin, Luke Boden, M Yordany Alvarez, Darwin Ceren (Anthony Pulis 61’), Adama Mbengue, Kevin Molino (Mikey Lopez 63’), Brian Span F Dennis Chin (Corey Hertzog 63’)
Tampa Bay Rowdies- GK Ryan Thompson, (Cody Mitchell 46’) D Willie Hunt, Jay Needham, Frankie Sanfilippo, Jordan Gafa (Anthony Wallace 46’), M Evans Frimpong, Keith Savage, Kyle Clinton, Christopher Callet, F Lucky Mkosona, Casey Townsend (Brian Shriver 46’)
TAM- Willie Hunt (Yellow Card) 44’
Time of Match: 7:45 p.m. EST
Weather: — Overcast