With a scoreless draw on the road against the Wilmington Hammerheads, Orlando City secured it’s third USL PRO regular season championship in the past four seasons, and their first since 2012, on Wednesday night at Legion Stadium in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Not only does the win send the Lions into the playoffs — which kick-off next Saturday — as the No. 1 overall seed, but this will be the last road match that Orlando will ever have to play in USL PRO.
Hooray, no more poor quality fields and live streams!
Rest of the match highlights
It was a defensive battle all night long, with Orlando needing just a point to capture the title, and Wilmington needing three points to claim a playoff spot.
Both teams traded opportunities throughout the match, but it was Orlando with the most dangerous of those attacks, putting shot after shot on goal, only to be saved by the on-point Wilmington ‘keeper, Brad Stuver.
The Hammerheads came very close to take 1-0 lead just four minutes into the match, with Corben Bone rushing into the box; he would see his shot on the in-coming Carl Woszcynski go wide and out of play. Woz would come up with another big save minutes later on a shot inside the penalty area by Wilmington forward Cody Arnoux.
Without Stuver in the goal for Wilmington, the Lions might have had a chance to replicate their 7-0 performance against Dayton on Sunday night, with countless opportunities being shoved away.
On the other side, Woz was sharp, too. Starting in goal for the second straight game, he came up with a few key saves that helped keep the game scoreless, and also secure his second consecutive clean-sheet, something that is not easy to do.
Three thoughts on the game
1. Adama Mbengue was great in the first 45 minutes creating plays and getting shots off on goal, stuff he was doing very well at the beginning of the season, but seemed to lose as the summer months came along. Mbengue went back to showing off his ability to get the ball in dangerous spaces, and make defenses work to defend him. A very talented player with some work left to be done, I would expect Mbengue to be re-signed during the offseason and start the year with Louisville City FC, where he can continue to polish his game and build on the positives that he showed not only tonight, but early on in the season, too.
2. Rafael Ramos was a beast in this match. He was everywhere, all over the field, all throughout the game. On the defensive end, he was battling for the ball and putting on a good display of defending. And like Mbengue in the first half, Ramos was running up the field and helping push the ball into the attacking this, which help made up for the fact that Kevin Molino and Giuseppe Gentile were very quiet up front all night.
3. Speaking of Molino, the league’s leading goal scorer this season was not much of a factor up front for the Lions in this game. You have to give Wilmington credit for keeping him in-tact throughout the night, limiting the space he had to create anything dangerous, and keeping him off to the side of the field, where he’s not able to do damage up the middle like he has plenty of times this season.
Orlando City returns home this weekend to close out the regular season against the Richmond Kickers. Kick-off for that Saturday night match is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The club will also be presented their regular season championship trophy after the game, so be sure to stick around for that party.