BRONX, NY -- This league is the best league.
Just when you think Orlando City is going to be flying back home with a 2-1 loss at the hands of its expansion class rivals, the Lions juke left, spin right, and deliver a late equalizing goal in the 94th minute to leave Yankee Stadium with a 2-2 draw and five points from their last three games heading into the Copa America break.
I don't know how the Lions manage to pull so many points out of their pocket late in matches like they do, but they do and you can't knock them for it.
Our five takeaways from the match:
The Comeback Kids
Like I just said, I don't know how Orlando City manages to pick up so many late results, but it's become a staple of this club, and a defining characteristic for this mostly young group of players. Just this season alone, the team has managed to find goals late against clubs like Real Salt Lake, New England, Philadelphia, and now, New York City.
One things' for sure about Orlando City: if you think they're out of a match, you're not watching Orlando City.
Orlando City was without five regular starters on Sunday -- David Mateos, Kaká, Darwin Ceren, Rafael Ramos, and Cristian Higuita -- and it would have been very easy to write the Lions off before the opening whistle -- and if we're being honest here, I may or may not have. But it just goes to show how much better this team is than last season's squad because of the depth they have coming off the bench. To be able to have a guy like Tommy Redding play so well against David Villa like he did. And a young player like Harrison Heath, making his first start of the season against a midfield stacked with stars like Andrea Pirlo and Mix Diskerud -- and no, he didn't have the greatest game, but he battled and helped at times.
The frustrating thing about Orlando City is that this is a talented group that struggles when healthy. It's just about getting the key players to contribute, and on Sunday, the club got contributions from some players that are normally coming off the bench.
The Beast Runs Loose
While a lot of focus has been on the underwhelming performance of Antonio Nocerino this season, I don't think enough credit has been given to Julio Baptista for just how well he's fit in here with Orlando City.
We've seen him mostly coming off the bench for the Lions, and providing an effective spark from his 34-year-old legs. On Sunday, he scored Orlando City's first goal on a good hold-up play inside the box to turn and shoot for the goal, and he nearly got on the end of a bicycle kick on Kevin Molino's game-tying goal.
The guy really is a beast, and not just for his size, but for his play at times, too.
Least Valuable Player: The Yankee Stadium Turf
It's no secret that the Yankee Stadium turf is far from the best in MLS -- it's actually among the worst, if not the actual worst -- and Sunday's match showed just why. Putting sod over dirt is always messy; letting it sit hardly three days before use is even worse, and it was pretty evident from the constant slipping and sliding we saw from players -- and even the assistant ref at one point! -- throughout the match. It's embarrassing for NYCFC and MLS to have to continue playing on this, and is a whole other reason why Yankee Stadium is not a viable long-term option for that club.
Tommy Redding Can Defend, Son
I'm sure I said this same thing after the last time Orlando City went to Yankee Stadium earlier this season, but Tommy Redding is a great young defender with loads and loads of potential for the Lions. Redding was tasked with stopping David Villa, one of the most accomplished strikers of his time, and he absolutely held his own against the former World Cup winner, not backing down for a second. It just goes to show how high this kid's ceiling really is.
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What are your takeaways from the match? Comment below!