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Lions Advance Against Battery
Orlando holds off defending champion in 3-2 semifinal victory

Friday, August 30, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City advanced to the 2013 USL PRO Championship Game with a 3-2 victory against defending champion the Charleston Battery on Friday night at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The Lions scored three goals in the opening 20 minutes before holding off the Battery, and now await the winner between the Richmond Kickers and Charlotte Eagles in Saturday’s second semifinal.

After a cautious start, the Lions grabbed control of the game with two goals in two minutes, with Adama Mbengue at the center of the action. The Senegalese midfielder first broke into the right side of the penalty area, and rather than shoot cut a low pass to a late-arriving Long Tan, who finished easily for his third goal of the playoffs.

A minute later, Mbengue found the net himself as he got on the end of a cross by Erik Ustruck after the right back cut into the right side of the penalty area and centered for a first-time finish. Mbengue came close to adding a second goal a few minutes later as his dipping shot almost caught out Charleston’s Odisnel Cooper, only for the Cuban goalkeeper to recover in time after parrying the initial effort.

The Battery’s first real opportunity arrived in the 15th minute as Dane Kelly’s header went over the crossbar from a corner kick, but Charleston was unable to make much headway as the Lions controlled more of the possession for much of the first half. The hole the Battery had to try and climb out of got deeper in the 19th minute as Dennis Chin tapped home from close range after an effort from Luke Boden’s corner kick came off the post and crossbar, only to land at the striker’s feet three yards from goal.

While Orlando continued to threaten, particularly from set pieces, the Battery grabbed a lifeline in the 33rd minute as a lobbed through-ball on the counter-attack gave Kelly a chance to break in on goal. Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo headed away at the edge of his penalty area to try and clear, but the ball went straight to Mike Azira 40 yards from goal, and the midfielder’s header floated over the stranded Gallardo and into the open net.

The game remained open at the start of the second half, and Charleston came close to closing the deficit in the 53rd minute as a good piece of interplay gave Nicki Paterson a chance in close, but his shot squirted wide of the right post. Azira also had a good turning volley a few minutes later, only for the effort to go straight into Gallardo’s arms.

The Battery would pull within a goal on the hour-mark, however, as Jose Cuevas was able to find space on the left side and float a deft, chipped cross that found an unmarked Amadou Sanyang inside the six-yard area for a headed finish.

Both sides we reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes to go as Orlando’s Tan and Charleston’s Colin Falvey were both sent off after an off-the-ball altercation that followed moments after Tan was booked for simulation in the Battery’s penalty area. The extra space allowed the game to go end-to-end as the Battery sought an equalizer, and Ben Fisk tested Gallardo with a shot from 20 yards that the Lions’ goalkeeper smothered. The Lions would hold firm defensively in the final five minutes and stoppage time, however, as they earned the opportunity to claim their second USL PRO Championship in three seasons next weekend.

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