U23s Match Recap: 7.22.2012 vs. Austin Aztex
U23s clinch Southeast Conference titleTeam 1 2 Final
Orlando City 2 2 4
Austin Aztex 1 1 2
ATX – Kekuta Manneh (penalty) 12
OC - Drew Helm (Sam Fairhurst) 13
OC - Sean Reynolds (Alexander Macdonald) 45+1
OC - Sam Fairhurst (unassisted) 80
ATX - Khiry Shelton (Devin Cook) 90+2
OC - Moses Aduny (David Graydon) 90+5
OC – Alexander Macdonald (Caution; Unsporting behavior) 23
ATX - Zach Pope (Caution: Unsporting behavior) 28
OC - Joseph Toby (Caution; Unsporting behavior) 35
Orlando City – Brendan Moore, Joseph Toby, Oumar Diakhite, Will Fransden, Sean Reynolds, Nico Russo (Johan Bergfeld 86), Jonathan Mendoza (Verneri Valimaa 71), Sam Fairhurst (Ryan Griffin 90), Alexander Macdonald (David Graydon 82), Anthony Arico (Gonzalo De Mujica 39), Drew Helm (Moses Aduny 81)
Substitutes not used: Charles Sanders
Austin Aztex – Devin Cook, Zach Pope, Juan Cruz, Ross Kelly, Travis Golden, Zach Garcia, Josh Alcala (Tony Rocha 51), Jesus Sanchez (Will Morse 65), Kekuta Manneh, Khiry Shelton, Kris Tyrpak (Callum Riley 85)
Substitutes not used: John Kaschak, James Martin, Robert Luedtke, Jesus Cortes
Ocala, Fla. - The Orlando City Under 23s squad were crowned the PDL Southern Conference Champions tonight after a dominant 4-2 victory over the Austin Aztex. The squad will play at the Carolina Dynamo in the National Semifinal on Saturday, July 28.
“I told the boys before the game that as their coach, one of the most gratifying aspects of my job is watching them come together as a unit,” said U23s Head Coach Joe Avallone. “I know they are at this point. It’s not easy getting there, but they are and everyone believes and buys into each other, you’re a team that can be very powerful.”
The first half began with the Aztex on the attack. Kekuta Manneh, a 17-year old winger drawing interest in Europe, made run after run at City defenders Sean Reynolds and Will Fransden. In the 11th minute, Reynolds and Fransden appeared to have stopped Manneh inside the box, but were judged to have fouled the Gambian, awarding the Aztex a penalty.
Manneh converted the penalty, but it did not take the Lions long to respond. Seconds after the restart, Sam Fairhurst sent a hopeful long ball towards the Aztex 18-yard box. The speedy Drew Helm managed to beat his defender to the ball and volleyed a strike at goal on a short hop. The ball sailed past a stunned Devin Cook and leveled the match.
The remainder of the half played out in thrilling fashion. The Lions and Aztex traded blows like two prize fighters, with neither defense willing to give up a knockdown blow. As regulation ended, the Lions earned a corner kick. Johnny Mendoza played it short to Alexander Macdonald, and he found Sean Reynolds unmarked inside the 6-yard box. The Aztex could only watch as Reynolds slammed it home and gave Orlando all the momentum going into the break.
“I reminded them that while we were proud to represent the Southeastern Division in the final, we were there to win, not just participate,” said Avallone. The Lions did more than just participate in the second half.
The second half picked up right where the first left off, with both sides pushing hard in the attack. Gusts of wind changed the face of the game near the 50 minute mark as neither club was able to play balls in the air for roughly five minutes. The weather clearly affected the Aztex, and forced them to change their play style for the remainder of the match.
Orlando City was dealt a major blow when Johnny Mendoza was taken down by Khiri Shelton from behind. Mendoza was carted off the field and replaced by Verneri Valimaa. Valimaa’s aggressive play helped offset the loss of Mendoza, and in the 80th minute it payed off. Valimaa sprung Helm, who fired a shot near post. Cook saved the strike, but popped it right to Fairhurst, who finished into the open net.
Late in stoppage, Austin continued to push, never giving up the chance of a comeback. Shelton brought the Aztex within one after Brendan Moore misjudged a long ball, but that was all the Aztex could muster. Moses Aduny iced the match after he and David Graydon connected on a breakaway on the game’s final play.
“Everyone bought in,” said Avallone following the match. “We know we have more work in front of us to fully accomplish our goal of a National Championship. The next match will not be easy.”
The U23s now head to the PDL National Semifinal in Greensboro, N.C., against Carolina Dynamo. The Dynamo defeated the Ottawa Fury 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Final this evening. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 28. For more information on the Orlando City U23s, visit www.orlandocitysoccer.com today.