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Orlando City Ferociously Defends Home Turf Against NY Red Bulls

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando City Lions (OCSC, 2-1-0) were forced to hit the ground running against the New York Red Bulls (RBNY, 2-2-1) at Orlando City Stadium Sunday. The first five minutes were riddled with ambitious steals on both ends of the field, and one close call for Orlando with forward Cyle Larin’s steal in the fifth minute as he kicked it to midfielder Scott Sutter. New York blocked the attempt and the ball ended up going out of bounds.

Another close one in the first half: In the 10th minute, OCSC goalie Joe Bendik dove to block a goal attempt but missed, but defender Jonathan Spector was able to kick the ball out of bounds before it could make it inside the goal.

The Lions lost midfielder Antonio Nocerino in the 17th minute due to an ankle injury and substituted midfielder Servando Carrasco in his place.

Orlando City scored its first goal in the 34th minute by Carrasco, with the assist by forward Will Johnson, causing the crowd of 25,527 fans to roar and thunder with cheer.

The most dramatic close call of the first half came in the 44th minute when Bendik missed another RBNY attempted goal and the ball went in, which would have tied New York with Orlando at 1-1–but the play was called offsides. With offensive possession at 45.5% and passing accuracy at 63.9%, Orlando held the lead with a 1-0 score at the half. The Red Bulls were 28 of 63 (44.4%) in dueling for the ball in the first half.

The second half was equally contentious. Cristian Higuita was issued a yellow card in the 62nd minute. In the 66th minute, New York midfielder Derrick Etienne, Jr. fouled and despite the whistle blow, he took the ball and continued the drive towards goal, ultimately knocking the ball out of bounds. Additionally, RBNY defender Aurelien Collin was issued a yellow card in the 76th minute. Within his first two minutes on the field, OCSC midfielder Luis Gil, who came on in place of forward Matias Perez Garcia, was issued a yellow card in the 86th minute.

Even in the three minutes added to the second half, OCSC midfielder Donny Toia sustained a yellow card penalty while helping his team hang on to that one point lead for dear life.

“…So many positive statements to make about effort level, intensity level, commitment of the players to defend. Real, real signs of togetherness and just a fortitude that says, ‘We won’t be broken at home’,” Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis explained during the post-game press conference. “And so I’m really pleased with that, but the negative is that we’ve got to continue to be better with the ball.”

Carrasco, while pleased with the outcome of the game and honored to be the one to score the Lions’ only goal, made an ironic confession when asked if he expected to score at all against RBNY. “Absolutely not. It’s kind of a collector’s item, for sure. I think the last time I scored was in 2013. I had about 20 people remind me of that, so I thought that was pretty funny.” He added, “We all have certain responsibilities on set pieces. Will [Johnson] played a fantastic ball, and I was just lucky to be at the right place.”

The Lions face their next opponents, LA Galaxy, on Saturday April 15, 2017 at 3 p.m. with a 3-1-0 record, including a flawless home game record.

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Mellissa Thomas is the Florida National News Editor. When she’s not covering events for FNN News, the award-winning indie screenwriter works on her next novel and helps her clients bring their book ideas to fruition. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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