USL PRO Game Report
Wednesday, September 3
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Orlando City SC was crowned USL PRO Regular Season Champion for the third time in four seasons as the Lions earned the point they needed to clinch top spot in the league standings with a 0-0 draw against Wilmington Hammerheads FC on Wednesday night at Legion Stadium. The Hammerheads, who had defeated the Lions in their previous meeting in Wilmington, also moved another point closer to a place in the postseason with two games remaining.
The stakes were high for Orlando and Wilmington entering Wednesday's match. Orlando needed a victory or a draw to claim the regular season title for the third time and Wilmington was in search of a victory to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Hammerheads forward Cody Arnoux was quick out of the gate in the first half, and went close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute, but was denied by Orlando goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski, who made a diving save. Adama Mbengue followed soon after for the Lions with a hard shot on Brad Stuver, but the Columbus Crew loanee made a fine save with his fingertips.
Arnoux and Mark-Anthony Kaye worked an attempt near the end of the first half off a cross, but Kaye could not find the right angle on the header towards the net as the game went to the break scoreless. Mbengue also pushed hard for the Lions throughout the night, and finished with four shots overall on Stuver, but none found the back of the goal.
Kaye continued to play creatively in the second half, placing a short, angled pass through the penalty area the box in search of a teammate to run onto, only for the ball to drift wide of the post. Wilmington's Samuel Ochoa also took a breakaway down the sideline as he looked to re-enact his goal against the Lions in their previous meeting, and got in one-on-one with Woszczynski, but he was shut down by Orlando defense as he tried to finish at the near post.
Wilmington nearly broke the deadlock when they were awarded a free kick late on just outside the penalty area. Corben Bone's delivery just eluded Ochoa's head, and flew just wide of the far post in the 89th minute. Orlando went close to claiming victory in stoppage time, but Stuver proved his presence by pushing the ball wide with another diving stop to leave honors even, and the Lions regular season champions.
The Hammerheads are scheduled to finish their 2014 USL PRO regular season on the road against the Dayton Dutch Lions at DOC Stadium on Friday night and the Rochester Rhinos on Sunday afternoon at Sahlen's Stadium. The Hammerheads will be hosting a watch party on Friday at Buffalo Wild Wings on Old Eastwood Road in Wilmington to watch the team in Dayton. Sunday's watch party location has yet to be announced.