From Orlando City’s perspective, Major League Soccer’s 22nd season-opening weekend couldn't have gone much better. The club won its first game of the new season, 1-0, against New York City FC, and was one of only two teams in the Eastern Conference to pick up three points. It was a magical way to both start the season and to christen the club’s magnificent new stadium. On the other hand, NYCFC had a very different weekend.
Going into their season opener, New York City fans were pretty optimistic. This may seem odd to you if you’re an Orlando City fan, as you probably are aware that the club has never won in Orlando. Yet this fact was viewed merely as a hurdle that could be easily surmounted. This is most likely because NYCFC was a far more successful team in its second year than the Lions. The club finished second in the Eastern Conference before a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of eventual MLS Cup runner-up Toronto FC in a two-leg affair. Orlando City, however, didn't even make the playoffs and finished eighth in the conference.
But in the end, even without star Designated Player Kaká, Orlando City pulled through and beat New York City, 1-0. This came as a crushing defeat for NYCFC. Last season, it had one of the most potent attacks in all of MLS, so to not even score a goal against what was one of the worst defenses in MLS the previous season was greatly disheartening. Put that on top of its overwhelming dominance of possession and it’s easy to see that NYCFC had a bad day at the office.
While Orlando City was resting at home this weekend due to its game’s cancellation, New York City was dominating on the pitch in its first home game of the season. The game was seen by many as an opportunity for New York City to bounce back from its opening weekend loss. This was no easy challenge though, as its opponents were a D.C. United side that kept a clean sheet in its season opener against a strong Sporting Kansas City team. New York City, however, did take its opportunity to rebound as it defeated D.C. United, 4-0, with David Villa scoring twice.
This result was very important because a team’s first win can sometimes kick start a successful season. Another positive for NYCFC is that its attack thrived in the match, especially in the finishing department, which is something it was exceptional at last season. Some key stats for the club were its whopping 63.1 percent possession and nine shots taken. Although nine shots is not that much compared with its possession, scoring four goals off of nine shots is leaps and bounds ahead of the zero goals NYCFC scored off of 14 shots in Orlando.
Now, you’re probably wondering what this all has to do with Orlando City. Well, we should be even more proud of our Lions’ performance against NYCFC. To hold a team with those capabilities to no goals is no simple feat. Of course, cynics will find a negative in anything. And in this case they said that goalkeeper Joe Bendik was called upon far too often. But my response would be that that's why you have a goalkeeper.
He's there to make saves, just as the defense is there to protect him. And I believe both did a fantastic job. If you want to know how hard it is to stop New York City’s attack there is only one thing you have to do. Ask D.C. United and MLS stars Steve Birnbaum and Bill Hamid.