Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Orlando City SC’s record-breaking USL PRO campaign came to an end Saturday night as the Lions were upset 1-0 by the Harrisburg City Islanders in the first round of the postseason.
City entered the playoffs as Regular Season Champions for the third time in four seasons, with hopes of claiming another postseason championship before making the leap to Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2015.
Commenting on the end of a highly successful era for Orlando City, Head Coach Adrian Heath said, “It’s sad that the record-breaking season has come to an end with that type of performance, but that’s football and that’s the way it is. This might be the last time that a lot of these guys will be together, and that’s the tough part. The guys that have been here for a few years have given unbelievable service to this football club. I’m privileged to have been their coach for four years.”
Featuring a true playoff atmosphere, the action started early on the in the match with both sides producing chances in an end-to-end first half.
In the fifth minute of play, Rob Valentino provided the opening chance for Orlando City with a leaping header that was saved for a corner by Harrisburg Goalkeeper Nicholas Noble.
One minute later, Hertzog continued the attack for City by connecting with Kevin Molino’s ball into the box. However, his first-time effort flew just over the bar.
The City Islanders’ pace up front led to several dangerous chances in the opening portion of the first half.
Harrisburg’s first clear opportunity came in the 25th minute when Striker Jimmy McLaughlin found Midfielder Jamiel Hardware on the edge of the area. After avoiding the incoming challenges from City defenders, Hardware’s final shot was hit wide of the target.
The Pennsylvania-based club eventually broke through six minutes before the end of the half with an effective counter-attack. As multiple Orlando players pushed high up the pitch, Hardware played Forward Anthony Hoppenhot in behind for a finish at the near-post.
Orlando City had a strong case for a penalty deep in stoppage time, after Adama Mbengue was brought down in the box. However, the referee waved the play on, resulting in a 1-0 score-line at the half in favor of the visitors.
Orlando opened the second half with an even stronger attack, as they continued to battle for an equalizer. In the 55th minute, Bryan Burke sent an early ball into the box that led to a corner for the Lions. Mbengue’s ensuing set-piece was cleared by Harrisburg to Estrela, whose volley from the edge of the area went high and wide.
After slipping in behind the Islanders’ backline, Corey Hertzog followed up with an opportunity to equalize in the 66th minute, but his shot was unfortunately deflected in a last-ditch challenge by center-back Richie Marquez.
With time winding down, the Lions continued to push forward in a dramatic close to the match.
In the 78th minute, Molino floated a ball to the near-post for Dennis Chin, whose header went just inches wide of the target. Shortly afterward, Mbengue surged into the box, producing a late chance for Orlando but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Frustration began to build on both sides and Harrisburg Midfielder Robbie Derschang was sent off for a reckless challenge on Mbengue. With Orlando City holding a one-man advantage, the Lions pressed into Harrisburg’s half, searching for a game-tying goal to send the match into extra time.
The Islanders were able to hold off the mounting pressure from Orlando, however, finishing the match at a 1-0 score-line to advance.
Team 1 2 Final
Orlando City SC 0 0 0
Harrisburg City Islanders 1 0 1
HAR – Anthony Hoppenhot (Jamiel Hardware) 39’
Orlando City SC – GK Carl Woszczynski, D Tommy Redding, Bryan Burke (Tyler Turner 68’), Luke Boden, Rob Valentino, M Adama Mbengue, Harrison Heath (Anthony Pulis 68’), Kevin Molino, Estrela, Brian Span (Dennis Chin 58’), F Corey Hertzog (Giuseppe Gentile 72’)
Harrisburg City Islanders – GK Nick Noble, D Neil Shaffer, Coady Andrews, Matt Bahner, M Yann Ekra, Jose Barril, Jamiel Hardware (Morgan Langley 65’), Robbie Derschang, F Jimmy McLaughlin (Danny DiPrima 78’), Antione Hoppenhot (Colin Zizzi 88’)
Rob Valentino (Yellow Card) 24’
Antione Hoppenhot (Yellow Card) 65’
Jose Barril (Yellow Card) 79’
Anthony Pulis (Yellow Card) 88’
Robbie Derschang (Red Card) 90’
Time of Match: 7:30 p.m. EST
Weather: — Clear
September 13, 2014