ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando City Lions have waited two years for this moment: On Sunday afternoon, they opened up their brand new stadium against a familiar foe. New York City FC, which played against the newly formed Orlando team in its very first game, came back into town on Sunday to open another phase in Orlando City Soccer history.
Cyle Larin picked up right where he left off by scoring Orlando’s only goal as they defeated New York by the score of 1-0 on Sunday afternoon. The sold-out crowd of 25,552 created a feeling inside Orlando City Stadium that his team has never experienced in the 3 years the club has been in MLS.
The crowd was active and loud for the entire game. The standing section, named “The Wall”, led the crowd with chants and stomping that could be felt all over the stadium and even at times making the media press box shake.
But in the early going, the crowd was brought to a silent roar as two-time MLS All-Star Midfielder Kaka’ went down with an hamstring injury. Even though Coach Jason Kreis didn’t disclose how severe the injury was, Kaka’ took off his captain’s armband and gave it to Right Back Will Johnson as he exited the field.
Giles Barnes, who was acquired last week from Vancouver, was brought into the game for Kaka’ in the 11th minute and it did not take long for him to become a instant fan favorite in Orlando. After some nice dribbling from Carlos Rivas, Barnes found open space and with his first touch as a member of Orlando found Larin at the back-post to open the scoring. “I think his instincts have been fantastic from day one in this league, really. I would say one of the most dangerous players in the penalty box,” said Coach Kreis of Larin in the post-game press conference. “If he gets one touch on it, he’s liable to hurt you.”
Kreis also noted that Larin’s game is improving and evolving. “We saw tonight he put a real solid shift in for us defensively, put some defenders under pressure, and he’s going to need to continue to do that, and I think increase his volume for that work.”
Larin used his 6’2″ frame to shield off New York’s Ronald Matarrita to head the ball into the back of the net. The goal was Larin’s 32nd with the team and it came in the 15th minute.
But for City fans, that one header from Larin was the only shot on goal the team had all night. For the remaining 75 minutes of the game, the team couldn’t manage a single shot on target and New York dominated the possession by a 2-1 ratio.
City goalkeeper Joe Bendik was the best player on the field on Sunday. His play in goal kept New York off the scoreboard all game long. His huge saves on New York’s Jack Harrison and late game substitute Sean Okoli gave him the first clean sheet at the new stadium. He finished with seven saves and looked like he was in mid-season form on the season’s opening day.
Orlando City will travel to play the New England Revolution in Foxboro on Saturday and return back to play their next home game on March 18th against the Philadelphia Union at 7:30pm at Orlando City Stadium.
“Before the game, we told each other to enjoy this. Do your best and work hard,” Larin said post-game. “We went out there and did the job.”
- Orlando: Cyle Larin – (1) 15′ – Assists: Carlos Rivas and Giles Barnes
- Will Johnson – 61′
- New York:
- Rodney Wallace – 29′
- Alexander Ring – 67′
- 11′ – Giles Barnes (Kaka’)
- 73′ – Cristian Higuita (Cyle Larin)
- 88′ – Hadji Berry (Matias’ Perez-Garcia)
- New York
- 63′ – Khiry Shelton (Rodney Wallace)
- 77′ – Thomas McNamara (RJ Allen)
- 84′ – Sean Okoli (Alexander Ring)
Danny Thompson is a contributing sports reporter for Florida National News. He can also be found over at NBA Full Court Press Radio.