In the first ever Major League Soccer match at Orlando City Stadium, Orlando City SC capitalized on its one true scoring opportunity to deny NYCFC of any points in both team’s season-opener.
Immediately from the start, Orlando City pressed high up the field causing trouble for the NYCFC backline. After many failed attempts to possess the ball throughout the back, NYCFC finally was caught out in the 15th minute when Orlando City striker Cyle Larin headed in a back-post cross for the first and only goal of the game. Shades of last season were present for NYCFC as new signing Alexander Callens and Ronald Matarrita forgot to mark Larin in the box, thus allowing him to get off a clear header for the goal.
Following the opening goal, NYCFC was able to get a foothold in the game as they began to establish their possession playstyle on Orlando City. Soon, NYCFC began to create chances in the attacking third specifically in the 32nd minute, when a nice flick-on by David Vila put new signing Alexander Ring through on goal. Unfortunately for the “Boys in Blue,” Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik came up with a big save therefore denying the Finn a goal on his debut.
Heading into halftime, Orlando City coach Jason Kreis wasn’t content with his team’s one goal lead, as NYCFC had 75% possession (according to ESPN’s Taylor Twellman) following Larin’s goal.
“We need better soccer,” said Kreis in a short halftime interview with ESPN. Althought they had a one-goal lead, Orlando City was on their heels as NYCFC was controlling the game along with silencing the once noisy Orlando City fans.
A possible equalizer nearly came in the 53rd minute as a Rodney Wallace cross fell to the feet of Jack Harrison. Harrison attempted to finesse the ball into the far post but was denied by a splendid Joe Bendik save.
In a continued search for an equalizer, NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira attempted to spark a goal by subbing on Khiry Shelton (63” for Wallace,) Tommy McNamara (77” for Allen,) and Ugo Okoli (84” for Ring.) Following the McNamara substitution, Vieira also switched NYCFC to a three at the back formation in an attempt to get men forward.
Despite having multiple scoring chances, NYCFC could not put the ball in the back of the net and ended the night in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Orlando City.
With 68% possession, double the amount of shots (14-7,) and seven times the amount of shots on target (7-1) NYCFC simply should have won this game. For eighty minutes of the match, NYCFC controlled play and dominated Orlando City as Orlando City never had more than one legitimate scoring opportunity (which they scored on.)
On a positive note, new signings Rodney Wallace and Alexander Ring played well. Wallace created multiple chances down the left-hand side of the field but had to be subbed off due to poor fitness and a possible second yellow-card. As for Ring, after an early errant backpass that nearly led to Orlando City’s first goal, Ring settled in nicely and was a workhorse in the midfield as he worked up and down the field for the entirety of his 84th minute debut.
On a negative note, Maxi Moralez had flashes of quality, most notably a chip to Villa in the 81st minute that veered wide, but for most of the game couldn’t find a way to influence NYCFC’s attacking play. Along with Moralez, David Villa lacked service throughout the entire match and didn’t finish either of the two chances that did come his way. As the season continues, don’t expect this to be a regular occurrence as both of these designated players seemed to have an off night.
Although NYCFC seemed to leave their finishing boots in the locker room, this performance from the team can be looked at positively. After a terrible year defensively in 2016, the backline of Mataritta, Chanot, Callens, and Allen looked solid throughout the evening following the Larin goal. In saying that, RJ Allen continued his trend of getting forward and was caught out multiple times by the Orlando City counter. Going forward, Allen needs to learn to stay back as teams with more-skilled attacking players will capitalize on his attacking tendencies.
In an attempt to take something positive away from today’s loss, NYCFC can breathe a sigh of relief as their newly improved backline and goalkeeper performed well for the majority of today’s game. In addition to the backline, new signings Rodney Wallace and Alexander Ring looked great in their team debuts and will only get better with more game time.
Next up for NYCFC is DC United at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, March 12. Hopefully, for NYCFC fans, the home-opener can feature some finishing and not just great build-up play.