The Orlando City Soccer Club opened this new stadium with a well defended win against New York City FC. Orlando City Stadium thundered as fans stomped their feet in the stands, supporting their home teams first 2017 effort. The 25,527 in attendance surely made their presence heard in the new building.
In a week that included a preseason tune up win against St Louis FC, a 5K Marathon, an official pub crawl, and a fun Kids vs Pros match, the stage was set to get real.
Injuries to Kevin Alston and Tony Rocha forced coach Jason Kreis to use some of his new players. In coach Kreis’ 4:4:2 formation, Orlando newcomers Jonathan Spector, Jose Aja, and Will Johnson are started today’s match. With the injury of team captain Kaka in the 11th minute, The Lions also brought in newcomer Giles Barnes. The team and fans pressed on without their captain.
Barnes paid dividends early on by lofting a pinpoint cross shot to the right corner of the NYC giving striker Cyle Larin an opening for a header goal. Orlando was in business 1-0 in the 15th minute.
The early goal proved to be crucial, because New York dominated ball possession at 68% in the match. It was also right on time as Barnes had only been in the game for four minutes. Barnes was acquired by the Lions on February 25th and hadn’t have time to work out much with the team. He didn’t even have time to warm up before going in.
He showed immediate chemistry with Rivas and took several shots that nearly found the back of the net.
Orlando also had other opportunities in the first half, with both Larin and Carlos Rivas having open streaks down the right side, but because neither were able to pass across, NYC shut the drives down near the box.
The Lions came out in the second half playing with more patience with the ball. The time of possessions started to even out in the beginning of the second half as Orlando made more presses on the NYC goal. NYC however kept dominating possession the further the match went on, as they fought to even the score.
NYC forward David Villa, the 2016 MLS most valuable player, was constantly put pressure on Orlando, either with aggressive shots, or dangerous assists. Orlando goalie Joe Bendik provided an heroic efforts as he caught or blocked shot after shot. Orlando’s improved defense also made it harder for NYC to get behind the defense line to strike at the goal.
“Obviously I’m extremely pleased. The level of work and commitment and togetherness from our team was off the charts,” Lions Head Coach Jason Kreis said. “Tonight the guys continued to fight, continued to stay together. There were mistakes happening but people had positive reactions to those mistakes and we made plays. Big, big night for everybody defensively, and that’s something to build on.”
“It’s a good result. I’m extremely happy to give the fans something to be excited about. The crowd was absolutely fantastic. The stadium was fantastic. The field was great,” Kreis continued. “Hopefully it’s every single home game that kind of energy and that kind of passion because I truly do believe that fans can help teams to win points.”
he Lions head to New England to take on the Revolution on Saturday, March 11, before returning to Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, March 18, to host the Philadelphia Union.