OCB drops inaugural USL match to Wilmington

The Orlando City Soccer Club did not have a fairy-tale return to the USL, as Orlando City B (0-1-0, 0 points) dropped its season- and home-opener to the Wilmington Hammerheads (1-0-0, 3 points) 2-1 Saturday at the Titan Soccer Complex.

After a scoreless first half, literally highlighted by a 40-minute lightning delay, Wilmington struck first with a 46th-minute goal by Ashani Fairclough. Following a corner kick that was cleared to the near-left side of the pitch, the ball was re-entered and headed in by Fairclough, giving Wilmington a 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for OCB to respond, though, as no more than 10 minutes later did Andrew Ribeiro notch the team’s first goal in the USL. Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits punched the ball out of the box, but it was easily gathered by Ribeiro, who scooted to the right side of the box and ripped a low, hard grounder that popped into the goal off of Smits’ hands.

Andrew Ribeiro 2

Andrew Ribeiro does a backflip following his lone goal for OCB in a 2-1 loss to the Wilmington Hammerheads at the Titan Soccer Complex on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (Courtesy of Orlando City SC Communications)

“A lot of excitement, but it’s unfortunate that the result was 2-1,” Ribeiro said after the match. “We talk a lot about these 30 games and, yeah, this is only one of 30 games, and with that result, [we’re] looking forward to next week.”

Said Ribeiro about his goal: “After the first goal, I’m sure our rhythm got better, and with 25 to 30 minutes left, we can do it, but, unfortunately the second goal didn’t make it.”

In the 63rd minute, Fairclough, Wilmington’s lone goal-scorer at the time, was replaced by Michael Mecham. The Hammerheads would find their game-winning goal in Logan Miller three minutes later when he gathered the ball from about 30 yards out, and one-hopped a ball past OCB goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. — who is on a one-game loan from the senior City team — in the back-left corner of the net.

OCB head coach Anthony Pulis inserted several offensive weapons, including William Eyang in the 67th minute for 2016 first-round MLS SuperDraft pick Hadji Barry and MLS veteran Bryan Róchez for a potential spark. The latter had five goals in 16 major-league appearances a season ago.

“Disappointed,” Pulis said. “Nobody wants to lose the first game. I thought we had good plays and areas, but our final decision was not on point tonight. But, listen, I’m not going to be a coach who gets too high when things go well, and I’m not going to be a coach who gets too low when things don’t go well. So, I’m going to get the guys on a [level] playing field.”

Throughout the match, OCB had plenty of corner-kick opportunities, but most soared high past the back post.

Orlando City B plays the Charleston Battery at 7:30 p.m. at home, and Wilmington will host the Richmond Kickers at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 1.

CORRECTION: Logan Miller scored the game-winning goal, not Michael Mecham.

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