When Orlando City travels to the Big Apple, it’s usually to face off against the New York Red Bulls or New York City FC, two teams with billionaire owners that also own several other clubs. But the first time Orlando City faced a team from the Empire State, it was small club formed in the old USL First Division.
In 2009, there was only one professional soccer team in the New York metropolitan area, the New York Red Bulls. The New York Cosmos wouldn’t play until August of 2011 and NYCFC didn’t come along until March of 2015. With the Red Bulls spending their existence in New Jersey, F.C. New York was announced on April 1, 2009 as bringing professional soccer back to New York City. “We are excited to bring professional soccer back to New York,” Owner Doug Petersen said during the team’s announcement.
F.C. New York first took the field for the 2011 USL Pro season. Their second game of existence was a trip to the Citrus Bowl to face another new USL Pro club, Orlando City, on April 9, 2011. It was a historic game for the Lions as they won their first-ever league game, 3-0 with a goal by eventual league MVP Yordany Alvarez and a brace by striker Maxwell Griffin.
Orlando City made its first trip to the Big Apple on April 30, 2011, when the Lions traveled north to face F.C. New York at St. John’s University’s Belson Stadium. This was a closer match-up with the Lions prevailing, 2-1 with goals by Lawrence Olum and Lewis Neal. While the first match-up between the two sides took place in front of 7,933 fans in Orlando, this one was for a mere 2,600 fans in Queens.
The last game between the two in April 2011 would be the final time that Orlando City and F.C. New York would meet. At the end of the season, the team dropped down a division to the largely amateur National Premier Soccer League, reportedly due to the team’s front office struggling to keep the organization afloat. After just one season in the NPSL, F.C. New York folded for good with league Chairman Andy Zorovich stating, “There were issues regarding minimum standards and operations and it was decided between both parties that F.C. New York would leave the NPSL.”
In addition to the historic connection of Orlando City’s first-ever league and home win, F.C. New York also provided the Lions with a coach that is still around the club today. On March 1, 2011, a month prior to the start of the club’s inaugural season, F.C. New York announced that it had signed Paul Shaw to a one-year contract. The England native was nearing the end of a playing career that featured stops at Arsenal, Burnley, Cardiff City, Peterborough United, and Millwall. He would captain the team in 2011 and serve as interim coach later that season.
Following his short stay in New York, Shaw joined Orlando City as academy director and coached the Orlando City U-23s from 2013 until its dissolution in 2015. Today, Shaw can be seen on local television broadcasts as a color commentator alongside Jeff Radcliffe.
As Orlando City travels to New York to face NYCFC for the second time in 2018, it’s easy to forget the small team that played just 15 miles away. Despite the fact that the two teams would go in very different directions following that season, F.C. New York will always hold a special place in the history of Orlando City.