With its 3-1 win, Orlando City sits first in Group A through the first two matches. Chris Mueller scored an early brace and the Lions never looked back, winning back-to-back league games for the first time since 2018. It was a physical game, but thanks to high attacking soccer to start the match, Orlando looked comfortable for most of the game. New York City FC made a game of things after the hydration break in the first half but was unable to climb all the way back. Here are the five takeaways:
Orlando City scored on the first set piece of the game. João Moutinho sent a curling ball into the box, and Mueller put it in the back of the net to open the scoring. NYCFC nearly scored on its first corner of the match. Maxime Chanot jumped over Mueller, and the ball went inches wide of the far post. Apart from those two set pieces, the dead ball situations from both teams were mediocre. There were lots of short corners that ended without even getting off shots. Free kicks were rarely on target, and both sides need some extra work in this area.
Still Cash Money
Mueller’s standout performance was a takeaway last week. Well some things don’t change, and Mueller is a talking point again. Mueller got Orlando City back into things last week. On Tuesday, he scored a brace in the first 10 minutes and put the Lions up 2-0. The 23-year-old has now scored four of Orlando’s six goals this season. Mueller was subbed out in the 80th minute, but not before a Man of the Match performance. He took five shots, four on target, and was the most threatening player on the field.
One of the significant talking points heading into this tournament was the players’ fitness levels. Whatever the Orlando coaching staff did to prepare the team for this tournament seemed to work. The Lions kept a high press for most of the match and aimed to win the ball back in NYCFC’s half. Orlando was able to steal the ball off of NYCFC a few times from this press. More times than that, the press forced New York to make inaccurate passes. Either way, the high press worked efficiently for the Lions. As the game went on, New York started attacking more, and Orlando sat back a little deeper.
Nani has to be the best player in the league in one-on-one situations. In the attacking third, he can always pull off a trick or two and make plays. This did not end up in a goal this week. Instead, he sent a perfect ball to Benji Michel late in the game. Sean Johnson made the save, and Tesho Akindele pounced on the rebound to help secure the win. While Nani will not get credit for a goal or assist, he started the opportunity. The winger is just as impressive in the middle of the field. He keeps things simple by playing a pass to a teammate or sending in a cross. He uses his skill on the ball to create just enough space for himself or to release the ball to a teammate. There could be a highlight reel of him making these plays in this match.
Both teams had a handful of great looks in front of the net. Sometimes, the attackers made mistakes, but the goalkeeping was excellent in this match. Neither Pedro Gallese nor Sean Johnson could do anything about the goals they allowed. The pair combined for 11 saves. Johnson’s most impressive save came in right after halftime. Pereyra took a shot from just outside the 18, and the former UCF keeper made a fingertip save. Johnson perhaps could have done better on Orlando’s last goal. However, he made a good save to deny Benji Michel. He made a point-blank save, and at that point, the defense should have cleared the ball. Gallese made a few highlight-reel saves. Right before halftime, it looked like Valentín Castellanos was going to level the game at 2-2, but Gallese came up with a huge stop for the Lions. The Octopus made an incredible double save in the 78th minute to keep Orlando in the lead.