Sometimes you outplay the opposition and lose or draw. Sometimes you get outplayed and get all three points. Orlando City picked the latter scenario at Yankee Stadium, finally picking up a victory on a baseball field.
Cyle Larin did the damage early with a goal in the seventh minute and Orlando City (1-0-2, 5 points) defended heroically for about the last 70 minutes of the match, holding on to win, 1-0, over New York City FC (1-1-1, 4 points).
Tommy Redding and Cristian Higuita were magnificent in breaking up play and Joe Bendik made big saves when he had to, as the Lions remained undefeated in 2016 but finally picked up their first victory in three outings.
The win may prove costly, however, as Antonio Nocerino and Cyle Larin both left the match early -- the former picking up a knock early in the second half, and the latter rested early due to illness.
Adrian Heath says Cyle Larin was sick, which explained the early sub. Canada fans will breath easy at it not being an injury #CanMNT— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) March 19, 2016
Heath stuck with pretty much the same lineup he's been going with early this season. Brek Shea, Seb Hines, Redding and Rafael Ramos manned the back line in front of Bendik. The Lions finally had their first-choice central midfield of Nocerino, Higuita and Darwin Ceren all together. Up top, Kevin Molino and Adrian Winter flanked Larin.
The 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year put Orlando City on top just seven minutes into the game with a header off a Ramos cross. The Portuguese youth international took a nice through ball from Adrian Winter and popped in a nice ball that NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders may have gotten the barest of touches on, but it fell to Larin, who didn't even have to jump to head it into the net.
Bendik had a bit of an adventuresome first half, with a couple of slips and some hesitation about coming off his line, but he made two huge saves on Mix Diskerud, who in truth should have done better with both of his shots. The first came moments after Larin opened the scoring, as Diskerud found himself alone to Bendik's left. The keeper blocked it out for a corner.
Diskerud's second chance came on a late run off a corner in which no Lion defender bothered to pick him up. Despite having lots of time, Mix shot it right at Bendik, who parried. New York shot eight times in the first half to Orlando's four, controlling 61.8% of the possession, especially owning the last 20 minutes of the first half. But the Lions did just enough to keep the hosts of the score sheet in the first 45 minutes.
Mix also had a golden opportunity in the second half, as New York continued to dominate possession and generate chances, but the U.S. international was robbed by a sprawling Bendik in the 60th minute.
The second half was one New York City build-up after another, with the hosts trying in vain to get the ball to David Villa, who was marked relentlessly by Redding all evening. Instead of the Spaniard, it was Steven Mendoza who provided the most danger for the New Yorkers. Mendoza's best opportunity came off a quick free kick. He found himself free on the right side of the box and scorched a shot off the right post in the 73rd minute.
Despite the one-way traffic, Orlando City had plenty of opportunities to put the game to rest, but Adrian Winter misfired well wide, Rivas had a shot stopped by a diving Saunders, Ribeiro had a shot deflected just wide, and Kevin Molino made a complete mess of a chance with no keeper in sight, trying in vain to settle the perfect ball and allowing the defense to close him down and block his shot at the empty goal.
The Lions did a good job late to keep enough possession to slow New York down in the late minutes and stoppage, but did allow a couple of nervy free kicks. Pirlo missed high on one attempt and Ronald Matarrita misfired on a cross from the Italian.
Orlando City is off until April 3, when the Portland Timbers come to town. The Lions may need that extra rest to get Larin and Nocerino fully recovered. Mateos and Kaká may also return to the lineup by then.