The Orlando SeaWolves must like giving away free soccer.
Just like its exhibition opener a month ago against the Brazilian national indoor team, the Major Arena Soccer League team went to overtime in Friday’s regular-season debut against the St. Louis Ambush at the Silver Spurs Arena.
While the Ambush came away with the 5-4 win in front of an announced crowd of 2,478, Coach Tom Traxler noted there were positives to take from the game, the first indoor game — that counted in the standings — for some players who last played pro soccer in the traditional outdoor game.
The SeaWolves trailed for much of the match, including a 3-1 deficit late in the first half when St. Louis’ Mario Marcos scored the second of his two goals, but repeatedly dug out to even the score, and three of their four goals came on the power play when St. Louis had a play in the penalty box, a specialty unit that struggled during the game against Brazil.
“The main positive to take from this is that we came from 3-1 down,” team captain Gordy Gurson said following the match. “We could have rolled over and it could have gotten ugly, but it was our house and the crowd got behind us. If we keep that attitude we’ll go far.”
Traxler talked about that character.
“It showed when we came back when we got down,” he said. “We had chances at the end of regulation and I thought we’d walk out winners. “We started the game well in possession, we talked about starting fast.
“Defensively we need to be simpler. I thought at times we overindulged a little bit and it got us in trouble. I think it cost us three goals. We will talk about that Monday.”
Orlando’s chance to atone comes on Dec. 14, when the Baltimore Blast, the reigning MASL Ron Newman Cup champions, come to the Spurs. The Blast split their first two games of the season.
“They’re a Cadillac franchise full of great players,” Traxler said. “We’re going to have a lot of work to do to be ready to compete.”
Friday’s match marked a reunion of sorts — SeaWolves players Victor France, Dylan Hundelt, Luiz Mota, Richard Schmermund, Gurson and goalie/assistant coach Piotr Sliwa have all played for the Ambush during their MASL careers.
But Luke Boden, a veteran of Orlando City’s pre-MLS days, became the answer to a trivia question when he collected a ball Gurson played off the boards and drilled it past Ambush goalie Casey Clark a minute into the second quarter to tie the game 1-1.
https://twitter.com/MCOSeaWolves/status/1068673785769934848https://twitter.com/MCOSeaWolves/status/1068673785769934848“I don’t even remember what part of the game that was,” Boden said after the match. “I just turned 30 but after this game I feel like I’m 40.”
But St. Louis scored twice in the second quarter, only to watch Gurson and Lewis Neal, another Orlando City refugee, tally power-play goals early in the third and fourth quarters to re-tie the game at 3 with 12:30 left in the match.
Jerjer Gibson gave the Ambush the lead 25 seconds later, but like all night the home team had an answer when Hundelt blasted a shot from distance into the net with 4:17 left.
The rest of regulation and 10 minutes of sudden-death overtime produced no goals, and the Ambush took a best-of-3 shootout 2-1 with protest from Gurson on his final shot that would have extended it.
“I thought the goalie came out of his box and it hit his hand,” he said. “I hate that it’s what lost the game.”
It was a rough-and-tumble game; Gurson and Clark collided in the second quarter and the SeaWolves captain went to the locker room to treat a shin bruise; minutes later Sliwa tweaked his hamstring on St. Louis’ third goal and gave way in goal to Rainer Hauss, who made a pair of big fourth-quarter saves to keep the Ambush within arms reach.
But Gurson said next week’s game against Baltimore should be better based how well the team’s come together in a short time.
“It’s night and day in the two weeks we’ve been here. Guys are really adapting well together, it’s just an unfortunate result in this one,” he said. “I’m blessed to be here to be a leader through it.”