ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Orlando City and NYCFC came ready to play during Saturday’s season opener at Orlando City Stadium. This was the third time Orlando faced NYCFC to open the season, and has never lost a season opener in its last four seasons, with a 1-0-3 season opening record. Orlando chose to keep most of its fan favorites as subs. The starting XI included Sacha Kljestan, Tesho Akindele, Chris Mueller and Will Johnson, with Brian Rowe at goalie. Dom Dwyer, Josue Colman, Cristian Higuita (who recently celebrated his 100-game milestone), Uri Rosell and newcomer Luis Nani were among the subs.
In the fourth minute, Orlando City made the first shot attempt, with Acosta’s right cross to Mueller, who passed right to Will Johnson, who made the shot, but it missed just past the left goal post.
After a battle for the ball, Orlando’s Sebas Mendez was issued a yellow card in the 9th minute.
In the 13th minute, Ebenezer Ofori got NYCFC on the board first with an assist from Jonathan Lewis.
Orlando’s Alex De John was issued a yellow card in the 16th minute for tackling Maxime Chanot. NYCFC was given a free kick, but way overshot it into the crowd.
NYCFC’s Ben Sweat got the next yellow card in the 20th minute in his effort to slide the ball away from Orlando’s Kyle Smith, which earned Orlando a free kick.
Orlando had two near-scores. In the 15th minute, Shane O’Neill drove the ball and passed to Chris Mueller for the shot, but he missed just off the right goal post. In the 25th minute, Sacha Kljestan drove the ball up to Will Johnson, who shot over the crossbar.
NYCFC widened the lead in the 44th minute with a right kick from Alexander Ring that found the back of the net, making the score 2-0.
Orlando had a tough first half, despite the team’s high stats. The Lions took a total of eight shots compared to NYC’s six, but only had one shot on target to NYC’s three, and were scoreless despite having nearly twice as many possessions (62) as NYC (38).
In the 58th minute after the yellow card issued to NYCFC, Mueller got Orlando City on the board with the free kick that bounced just outside the goalie’s reach and into the back of the net, making the score 2-1.
In the 68th minute, the Lions gave the fans what they chanted for in the first half: Luis Nani, who was subbed in for Sebas Mendez. Dwyer also came in for Kyle Smith.
In the 69th minute, NYCFC’s Maximilliano Morales drove to the net with a sure shot, but Rowe was able to deflect it with his left arm.
Rowe was able to capture another shot attempt in the 72nd minute, and the resulting play saw Mueller attempt to drive the ball up the field, but got the ball swiped away from him. In an attempt to steal it back, Dwyer tumbled atop his opponent and got himself a yellow card (below).
In the 74th minute Tesho Akindele made his debut (and game-equalizing) goal as a Lion, with the assist from Nani to Dwyer to Akindele, bringing the score to 2-2. Just after the goal, though, Akindele went down with a leg cramp. Josue Colman subbed in for him in the 77th minute. Former Lion Tony Rocha subbed in for Ben Sweat for NYCFC.
The contention remained high on both sides for the remainder of the 90 minutes and four minutes of added play, and the score remained 2-2.
Orlando City hits the road to face Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium Saturday, March 9th at 1pm and return home to face Montreal Impact Saturday, March 16th at 4pm.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org