Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Tuesday night MLS is Back Tournament match-up between Orlando City and New York City FC at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. This match was originally set for 10:30 p.m. but was shuffled to 8 p.m. (TUDN) after the withdrawal of FC Dallas and Nashville SC forced MLS to reconfigure the groups.
It will be the first time the two Eastern Conference rivals have met during the 2020 season and the first meeting since July 10 of 2019, when the Lions played the Pigeons to a 1-1 draw before dispatching NYCFC from the U.S. Open Cup in a penalty shootout. That night has been immortalized for the running of The Wall and Adam Grinwis’ heroics in goal.
The Lions are 5-5-4 in 14 meetings with the Pigeons in the all-time series in MLS play and 5-5-5 including USOC play (remember, games that go to penalty shootouts in knockout competition are officially draws), so the series between the two 2015 expansion sides has proven to be a competitive one, even though the teams’ overall fortunes have been quite different. But, despite the good feelings from last July, Orlando is officially riding a 0-4-3 streak in the last seven competitive meetings, with each of the last three meetings ending in draws.
The teams last met in regular-season play April 27 of last year at Yankee Stadium, playing to a 1-1 draw. Nani scored the opener in the 18th minute but it was canceled out by Heber in the 51st minute. A 2-2 opening day draw snapped the Pigeons’ four-game series win streak, in which they’d outscored the Lions 10-0 in that span. New York City grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Ebenezer Ofori and Alexander Ring, despite Orlando playing well in the game. The Lions, as they sometimes do, roared back on goals by Chris Mueller and Tesho Akindele and may have had a third from a spot when Maxime Chanot handled the ball in the box but no penalty was given.
The Lions had lost four straight games in the series prior to last year’s trio of draws. Orlando’s last victory in the series came on opening day of 2017, when Cyle Larin christened the stadium now known as Exploria with the only goal in a 1-0 OCSC win. Orlando was 3-1-2 in 2015 and 2016 in the first six meetings with NYCFC, and 4-1-2 after the opening day win in 2017. New York City has turned that around over the last couple of seasons.
Orlando (1-1-1 on the season, 1-0-0 in the tournament) could take a huge step toward qualifying for the knockout stage of MLS is Back with a win over New York City FC (0-3-0 overall, 0-1-0 in the tournament). Despite the Pigeons being winless in 2020, New York City FC has lost all three matches by slim 1-0 margins to three playoff caliber teams. Those opponents have been Columbus (2-0-1), Toronto (2-1-0 and last year’s MLS Cup runner-up), and Philadelphia (1-1-1 and a playoff team from 2019). New York City will be hungry to get on the board in the tournament because going 0-2 would make qualification for the knockout stage extremely difficult.
“Obviously NYCFC has a very strong team,” Joao Moutinho said on a media conference call earlier this week. “I think we all know that. We respect them a lot. We know that they came from a loss against Philadelphia. So, if we beat them they’re out of the tournament, and obviously if we beat them, we’re going through to through the next stage. So, that’s something that’s (in) the back of our heads, obviously. We want to go out there and showcase what we can do, once again, and get that win just to get through to the knockout stage as soon as possible,”
The Lions may not have to contend with usual foil Maxi Moralez , who is dealing with a quad injury, but NYCFC has plenty of firepower, despite a dearth of goals so far in 2020. They’ll have to keep an eye on Heber, Valentin Castellanos, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Alexandru Mitrita in particular. Meanwhile, on the other end they’ll have to make quick decisions when taking on defenders to avoid Ring swooping in from behind to nick the ball away.
“They have a lot of similar players to last year so we’re pretty familiar with them,” Tesho Akindele said. “I think on the offensive end, they have a lot of players who can just make something special happen. They have guys who can just pull a goal, out of nowhere or dribble somebody and send a good pass or something like that. So I think that we just need to make sure we’re really focused on our one-on-one battles and not let those players do something special against us.”
The Lions seem to be healthy heading into the tournament’s second game unless there’s a knock that hasn’t been reported — and this is a team that keeps injuries closer to the vest than most. In addition to Moralez’s problematic quad muscle, Sebastien Ibeagha and Tony Rocha were both listed as questionable Friday for NYCFC in the team’s 1-0 loss to the Union. Mitrita was unavailable for that match as well, but will reportedly be good to go.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report gets some background on New York City FC from Christian Smith of SB Nation’s Hudson River Blue.
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for both the New York City FC game and the upcoming game against Philadelphia. We were joined by Christian from Hudson River Blue to discuss this match as well.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Uri Rosell, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller.
Forwards: Dom Dwyer.
New York City FC (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson.
Defenders: Ronald Matarrita, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Anton Tinnerholm
Defensive Midfielders: James Sands, Alexander Ring.
Attacking Midfielders: Valentin Castellanos, Gudmundur Thórarinsson, Jesus Medina.
Ref: Robert Sibiga.
AR1: Logan Brown.
AR2: Jose Da Silva.
4th: Marcos DeOliveira.
VAR: Ramy Touchan.
AVAR: Andrew Bigelow.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex — Orlando, FL.
TV: TUDN (English commentary available live on Twitter).
Radio: 96.9 FM (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match! Go City!
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