Orlando City has made a habit of feasting on the Big Apple teams early in the MLS season. The Lions’ 1-0 win at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night marked the fourth consecutive time Orlando has gotten its first win of the season against one of Major League Soccer’s New York clubs and the second straight year that City’s first victory has come at the expense of the Red Bulls.
In 2015, Orlando City’s first win came on the road at expense of the Houston Dynamo — the Lions’ first ever MLS victory. Since then, the opening win of every MLS campaign has come against the two clubs stationed in the New York metropolitan area.
The Lions opened the 2016 season with a pair of draws against Real Salt Lake and Chicago — both at home — before traveling to Yankee Stadium, where they defeated the Pigeons, 1-0 on March 18. Cyle Larin’s goal in the seventh minute was enough to secure the team’s first three-point grab of that year.
New York City again was victimized in 2017. Larin again won it with an early goal, opening Orlando City Stadium with a 15th-minute goal that stood up for another 1-0 win on March 5. That was the MLS season opener for both teams and it was Orlando’s first opening day win in the MLS era.
An 0-2-1 start marred the beginning of the 2018 MLS campaign, including a 2-0 loss at New York City FC. But the Lions bounced back at home against the Red Bulls on March 31, winning a thrilling back-and-forth affair by a 4-3 final. Will Johnson opened the scoring on a nice team goal, Dom Dwyer chipped in a brace in his first appearance of the year, and Scott Sutter’s blast off the back of teammate Josué Colmán in the 86th minute combined to secure yet another early season win over a New York-based team.
Then Saturday happened. Orlando City was 0-1-2 entering the match, including a 2-2 opening day draw against NYCFC that could have been a win had an obvious handball in the box been called on Maxime Chanot.
Since entering Major League Soccer, Orlando City holds a combined record of 3-2-1 against the New York teams in the month of March and a 5-3-1 mark against the two clubs in the first two months of the season. The Lions have taken 11 of 18 possible points from NYCFC in the first two months of the season. It’s noteworthy that Orlando will visit Yankee Stadium again on April 27. Against the Red Bulls, City has grabbed six of nine possible points through the end of April over the MLS years. Orlando is just 4-7-3 against the New York sides after April over the years. That’s just 15 points out of a possible 42.
Clearly, the Lions have been much better against the Red Bulls and Pigeons early on than they’ve been throughout the final six months of the MLS campaign.
So, what do we make of this? This may have something to do with Orlando City’s overall history of decent starts and mid-season (and later) fades. It could be that the Lions just play those teams tougher, with them each being top Eastern Conference opponents that require a lot of concentration and attention and among the team’s biggest rivals in MLS.
Or it could mean nothing and just be dumb coincidence.