|(Courtesy of Orlando City)|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Orlando City SC defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League (NASL) 3-2 (6-2 aggregate) at Al Lang Stadium on Sunday evening to claim its second consecutive I-4 Derby title, presented by United World Soccer. Numerous City supporters ventured on the away trip to witness the Lions defeat the Rowdies for the sixth time in as many matches played over the past two seasons.
“As I said to the players, you can never get tired of winning titles. We scored some very good goals tonight and all three were delights to watch,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the derby win. “Coming in with a three goal lead, we could’ve taken our foot off the pedal but we didn’t. We worked and hard and I’m delighted not only for the players but also for our supporters. Once again, it was a great turnout from them, and I hope they’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.”
Orlando City broke through in the 31st minute when Kevin Molino played a crafty one-two with Corey Hertzog inside the area, before producing a composed finish from six yards away. Molino’s ability to provide the opening goal for Orlando continues the impressive 2014 campaign being displayed so far by the club’s first-ever Major League Soccer (MLS) signing, who currently leads USL PRO in goals (11), assists (6) and points (28).
Tampa Bay leveled the score-line just four minutes later, after a costly mistake from the Orlando defense. Midfielder Darel Russell was able to dispossess Lions’ center-half Tommy Redding and play Georgi Hristov in behind with ample space, leaving Carl Woszczynksi with no chance.
For City’s second goal of the half, Molino was once again involved when the Trinidadian earned a free-kick for Orlando on the edge of the area in the 43rd minute. Ceren’s ensuing set-piece featured a bit of cleverness, as the midfielder beat Thompson by striking his effort under the wall to find the back of the net.
The 2-1 score-line at the end of the half was a fair reflection of the first 45 minutes, as Orlando were the better side on the ball while the Rowdies’ attacking efforts were more sporadic and less threatening. As a result, Tampa Head Coach Ricky Hill made two attacking changes at the half, bringing on Midfielder Evans Frimpong and Forward Luciano Olguin.
Less than 20 minutes into the half, Tampa coordinated a response to Ceren’s strike when Hristov scored his second goal of the match. The striker was played in behind Ricardo Morris and slotted the ball underneath Woszczynski for an equalizer that was crucial for Tampa to stand any chance of claiming the I-4 Derby title.
Tampa Bay’s push to get forward in the second half seemed to re-motivate Orlando City, who had been in no rush to secure another goal, as they maintained a 5-2 lead on aggregate.
After holding off Tampa Bay’s push early in the second half, City responded with another goal in the 75thminute via Corey Hertzog. The striker’s finish proved to be the final dagger, as the Rowdies would’ve had to put forth a monumental effort to overcome four goals in 15 minutes.
To prevent any further damage, Heath brought on Mbengue and several trialist players to provide fresh legs as Orlando secured its second straight I-4 Derby title with tremendous support from the numerous City faithful in attendance, who made the trip down I-4 to create a home atmosphere on the road.
Orlando’s next match will take place in league play when the Lions host the Wilmington Hammerheads on July 12 at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. EST. The match will be live streamed via YouTube.com/OrlandoCitySC.
— Via Jhamie Chin / Orlando City SC