Two weeks ahead of their season-opening matchup on March 2, Orlando City and New York City FC held a dress rehearsal on Saturday night in the inaugural preseason Orlando City Invitational at Orlando City Stadium.
Despite falling behind a goal, the Lions battled back to score two goals on their way to a 2-1 victory over NYCFC.
“I’m very pleased,” head coach James O’Connor said after the match. “I thought the quality at times was very good. We wanted to try to get 90 minutes into the guys — we played a game this morning and seven got 90 minutes and we had pretty much everyone play 90 minutes. We had Ruan come out with a bit of cramps, so all in all great.”
The Lions were in control throughout much of the first half, and yet it was the visitors that found their way onto the score sheet first when Maxi Morales put one into the back of the net with a long-range strike from about 35 yards out to beat Brian Rowe, who despite his best efforts couldn’t get a hand on the ball, to make it a 1-0 game in the 30th minute.
Up to that point, Orlando had not been giving up much, if anything, defensively to NYCFC, but Morales found himself with more than enough space in the middle of the field to make something happen himself, getting off the shot goal the spectacular goal.
But Orlando didn’t stay down for long, finding an equalizing goal from Tesho Akindele four minutes later in the 34th minute. Chris Mueller played Danilo Acosta out to the left wing, where he sent in a cross down near the touchline that Sacha Kljestan re-directed with his head to Akindele, who was there in the middle of the box to finish off the sequence and beat Sean Johnson for the goal.
Orlando City took the lead three minutes later when Kljestan played a ball forward to Akindele, quickly sending it back out to Mueller on the wing, then Mueller took off for goal and ripped one past Johnson from the left side, making it a 2-1 game in favor of the home side.
Orlando continued to dominate in possession and keep play in NYCFC’s half of the field for much of the night. The Lions had a couple of good opportunities to score in the second half but put it all together to find a third goal.
“There’s a couple of areas we can be sharper at, where we can be crisper at,” O’Connor said, talking about areas he thinks the team can still improve this preseason. “But I think overall if you look at where we started from three and a half weeks, nearly four weeks now, to see the understanding of attacking and defensive principals was very, very encouraging.”
Another worthy note: 16-year-old Jordan Bender, of Orlando City B, came into the game as a substitute in the 79th minute to replace Ruan, marking his unofficial debut for the first team.
Up next, the Lions will be back on the field to take on the New England Revolution on Wednesday in the final match of the Orlando City Invitational. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Orlando City Stadium and the match will again be open to the public.
Minnesota United defeats New England Revolution, 1-0
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Orlando City Stadium, the New England Revolution and Minnesota United FC faced off in the opening match of the Orlando City Invitational.
There wasn’t much action to report in this one outside of a 65th-minute goal by Miguel Ibarra that put Minnesota ahead and eventually proved to be enough as they pulled out the 1-0 victory.
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