Less than a month away from their first match in Major League Soccer, Orlando City SC drew with Swedish squad BK Häcken, 2-2, in a hard-fought friendly today at the Lions' Sylvan Lake training facility. The teams played two 45-minute periods and an additional 30-minute session so that both teams could get two groups of players 60 minutes each.
Orlando's starting 11 consisted largely of projected starters with the exception of Aurelien Collin, and all but goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts played into the second half. It was a friendly, but both teams clearly came to play. The match was chippy at times, with both squads earning a few yellow cards.
The Lions were on the front foot early, and it paid off in the sixth minute. Kaká and left back Brek Shea moved the ball down the left side, and the Brazilian's early cross was slotted home calmly by USL veteran Kevin Molino.
Orlando City had the better of the play with the starters on the field, with a number of veteran leaders taking charge. The starting center back tandem of Connor Donovan and trialist Sean St. Ledger were in command from the back line, and MLS veteran Amobi Okugo was in charge of the midfield. Kaká was the quiet leader, as always, but fellow attacking midfielders Lewis Neal and Kevin Molino were more vocal in the attack.
BK Häcken tied the match quickly, with a superb curling free kick from Captain Martin Ericsson in the 10th minute. A sprawling Donovan Ricketts had no chance on the excellent shot from about 20 yards out.
Orlando had the better of the play for the rest of the half, but were unable to regain the lead.
Shortly after the start of the second half, Orlando brought on Martin Paterson up top for Bryan Rochez, and rookie keeper Earl Edwards Jr. started the second half for Ricketts. The back and forth play continued through the 69th minute, when Orlando Coach Adrian Heath replaced all nine remaining Orlando City players.
Things went south quickly for the replacements, as new loanee Seb Hines tackled a Häcken attacker in the area to conced a penalty in the 73rd. Ericsson converted to make it 2-1, which would remain the score after 90, when the teams took a second brief intermission.
The Lions clearly were taking the match seriously, as the intensity level was very high throughout. It's worth noting that BK Häcken finished fifth in the very respectable Allsvenskan last year, and they're currently on their winter break and in mid-season form.
Still, the tackle was not a good start for Hines, and the Lions seemed to have some significant communication issues with the second squad. Kaká looked good though, and we saw flashes of brilliance between the Brazilian and Molino. All things considered, it was a solid performance and a great training experience against an in form Swedish side.
In the extra period, Orlando's second team saw more of the ball and Hines redeemed himself with a headed goal off a corner to end with the match tied, 2-2.
Watch for more content from today's game later.