Orlando City was without Kaká for the third successive match. The Brazilian is likely to return to action April 3rd at the Citrus Bowl against reigning MLS Champion Portland. Despite the absence of Kaká, Orlando was able to record a 1-0 victory, the club’s first of the 2016 MLS campaign.
After a torrid start to the match the Lions struck early to open up a 1-0 lead. In minute seven, Cyle Larin scored his third goal in as many games this season after a defensive mix up and poor clearance by New York Goalkeeper Josh Saunders. It was Larin’s sixth goal in just three games against the Blues. The 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year now has 2o goals in league play over the course of the last 11 months, a remarkable return for any player, especially one so young.
From about minute fifteen until the end of the first half, New York controlled the proceedings with US Men’s National Team star Mix Diskerud looking particularly lively. Orlando’s defense however unlike the last two weeks were well organized perhaps thanks to the narrow pitch and having less space to account for and didn’t concede a goal in this period despite New York holding a decisive 62-38 possession advantage.
In particular, Oviedo raised Tommy Redding and the much-maligned Seb Hines along with Joe Bendik in goal were excellent in keeping NYCFC off the scoresheet.
The second half saw both Larin and Antonio Nocerino subbed off early with injuries, leaving the Lions to contest the last 35 minutes of the match with one substitution remaining. In the next few minutes after the substitutions, Bendik made two massive saves, the second from point blank range on Diskerud to preserve the Lions lead.
The final thirty minutes were helter skelter to say the least. Both sides missed clear chances, the most notable a Kevin Molino opportunity with Saunders out of position and the match deteriorated into a back-and-forth contest of half chances and bad giveaways. New York applied pressure but did not sustain possession in the final third or make the types of probing runs needed in matches like this to be successful. Quite frankly, New York looked like a side with little composure late on despite having two World Cup winners who have also won the UEFA Champions League David Villa and Andrea Pirlo on the pitch. But Villa and Pirlo are only as effective as the men they play with and the rest of the Blues side is inexperienced and did not demonstrate the necessary patience to sustain the kind of build-up play needed to equalize.
The win was badly needed for the Lions after beginning the season with two disappointing draws at home. One additional real positive note for Orlando was the return from injury of Carlos Rivas who looked outstanding after coming on in the second half.
Orlando’s next match in MLS play is April 3rd against the Portland Timbers at the Florida Citrus Bowl.