Orlando City SC matched up with New York City FC for the second time this season at Yankee Stadium. The Lions won the previous meeting 1-0 in March. The New York outfit entered the match still smarting from an embarrassing 7-0 loss to cross-river rival Red Bulls on national TV last weekend. Adding to the Blues misery was the sight of Cyle Larin who has scored eight goals in four league games  in New York or New Jersey for Orlando City SC. Still NYCFC entered the match ahead of the Lions in the MLS’ Eastern Conference table.

But with several starters missing Larin was starved for service in the first half until a 35th minute opportunity where Larin pushed a shot wide after being put off by New York’s Ethan White. New York generally controlled the first half with Orlando drifting deeper to keep a strong defensive shape, but the Blues didn’t break through until Frédéric Brillant scored from a great ball delivered by R.J Allen who 15 months ago was still coaching youth soccer on Staten Island. Allen was probably the best player in the first half both in his distribution and his man-marking.

Midway through the second half, David Villa who has won two European Championships, a UEFA Champions League and World Cup put NYCFC up 2-0 with a sublime finish from a delicious ball delivered by fellow World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner Andrea Pirlo. Minutes later, Villa a penalty which opened the door for the Lions. Villa has missed an opportunity in the first half when Seb Hines smartly pushed him into a disadvantageous position and he sent a shot on a breakaway wide of the far post.

Second half Orlando substitute Julio Baptista turned Brillant inside out and finished nicely after a great ball from Kevin Molino. Orlando strangely had not pressed high up the pitch against NYCFC’s somewhat ragged defense prior to Baptista’s goal something which will certainly have Lions Manager Adrian Heath second guessed.

The Lions had a late penalty shout when Brillant appeared to have fouled Carlos Rivas, but replays indicated the Colombian went down very easily and the no-call was probably the right decision. Orlando’s propensity for late drama continued as New York blew repeated opportunities to kill the match and with the last kick of the game Molino scored a wonder goal when NYCFC failed to clear the ball effectively. Larin took a cross from Rivas and knocked it down for Molino who connected brilliantly with the ball to salvage the draw.

Orlando’s draw sends them into the Copa America break having gained five points in the last three matches. Tactical concerns continue to be apparent for the Lions but with a few weeks before a return to action (the next match will be in the US Open Cup against either the Jacksonville Armada FC or Charleston Battery on June 15) Heath will have time to tweak things.


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