After looking like the better team the first 30 minutes of the game, Orlando City looked on the back foot for the final 70 minutes, scraping by a 1-1 draw against New York City FC on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium in front of 2,745 fans.
With nine players missing due to injury, international duty or illness, the Lions scraped by through most of the match on tired legs, relying heavily on Brian Rowe and his seven saves throughout.
“30 very good minutes for us in the first half,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after the match, “After that New York started getting the ball. We couldn’t get the ball back as we’re used to and then they start creating some actions there, including the goal. It was a goal that we probably had an overconfidence there, but I’m not going to blame the players because what I have preached in this team is to try to play a game, and not just kick and run. We try to play it and sometimes those things happen.”
Pareja continued, “The second half was it was probably a hope that we had during those 45 minutes of creating something and try to hurt New York, but without consistency and without too much clean sequences, New York got some other actions that could finish in a win for them. So at the end, with the players, we take the point. We know how hard is the league and how hard is that rival and, and today well, we’re used to winning at home, but we’ve taken that point and we think about the next one.”
The match started in Orlando’s favor, creating numerous chances within the first 15 minutes with Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller headers. It wasn’t until the 18th minute that Orlando struck.
Mueller started the attack by feeding the ball out to Ruan, playing his first game since the Lions match at FC Dallas at the end of September. The fullback proceeded to use his speed to burn past Gudmundur Thórarinsson, chipping a perfect ball in for Mueller to head towards the far post and in.
Following the water break for both teams at the half hour mark, New York came out with a different look, forcing Orlando’s midfield and backline into costly turnovers. The trend continued until one mistake led to the equalizer from NYC.
Following a turnover from Kamal Miller and the entire Lions backline inability to clear the ball, Keaton Parks managed to get behind Ruan and the Orlando defense and getting a shot off at Rowe. The Lions keeper made the original save, but the ball fell back to Parks to tap in and tie the match right before half.
The second half was almost all New York, with Orlando only managing two shots through the final 45 minutes.
It was a tough game for us tonight,” goalkeeper Brian Rowe said after his 100th MLS start, “We definitely we didn’t look ourselves, it’s a frustrating one, especially to be at home, a place that we’ve been able to dominate teams. First 30 minutes of the game, we started the game getting that goal, being all over them, getting close to getting that second one and then we kind of just let our foot off the pedal and we were on our heels for a lot of the game.”
Rowe continued, “Even though being off tonight, it would have been great to get the three points, but I think we’re okay. Escaping with the draw after that performance tonight and it looks like the other results around the league went our way, so we’ll get through this one and set our sights on this this weekend, and kind of correcting course and getting back to the football and the quality that we know we can play.”
Other than Rowe’s milestone tonight, another academy product made his MLS debut for the club in Jordan Bender, who came in for Daryl Dike in the 93rd minute.
Orlando now moves to their next game on Sunday, traveling to New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls at 7 p.m.
18′ – Chris Mueller, assisted by Ruan (ORL)
43′ – Keaton Parks (NYC)
Here’s how the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI (4-2-3-1): Brian Rowe; Kamal Miller, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Ruan (Alex DeJohn, 93′); Joey DeZart (David Loera, 76′), Junior Urso; Nani, Andres Perea, Chris Mueller (Robinho, 84′); Daryl Dike (Jordan Bender, 93′).
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.
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