Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday evening match-up between Orlando City and New York City FC at Exploria Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN) . This will be the first of two scheduled meetings between the Lions (1W-0L-2D, 5 points) and Pigeons (2-1-0, 6 points) this season, with the return fixture at Yankee Stadium set for July 25.
These two teams know each other well, having met three times last year (including that playoff game), 16 times in the regular season, and 18 times overall in competitive play, plus a few preseason matches as well.
The Lions are 6-5-5 in 16 meetings with NYCFC in the all-time series in MLS play and 6-5-7 including playoff and U.S. Open Cup 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. Orlando is 3-2-3 at home in this series in MLS play and 3-2-5 at home in all competitions. The Lions are on a modest four-game unbeaten streak in the series (1-0-3) in all competitions, with two of those draws coming in knockout games and going to penalties, where Orlando came out on top. But, because of those draws, another way to look at it is that Orlando City has won only once in the last 11 competitive meetings and has failed to win the last two (0-0-2).
The last times these teams met, things got weird. Orlando City ultimately prevailed in penalties after a 1-1 postseason draw on Nov. 21, 2020. Nani put Orlando ahead from the penalty spot, only to see Maxime Chanot equalize on a set piece. Extra time couldn’t settle it, so to penalties we went and the Lions advanced thanks to a save by defender Rodrigo Schlegel after Pedro Gallese was sent off with a second yellow for coming off his line early. Benji Michel’s blast was the difference in the shootout. (Seriously, just click the above link in this paragraph and relive that madness.)
The Lions and Pigeons last met in regular-season play on Oct. 14, 2020 at Exploria Stadium, playing to a 1-1 draw. Chris Mueller opened the scoring but Keaton Parks equalized just before halftime. It wasn’t Orlando City’s best performance of the year, but the Lions were missing a good chunk of the team: Dom Dwyer (knee), Joao Moutinho (groin), Uri Rosell (not medically cleared), Tesho Akindele (not medically cleared), Mauricio Pereyra (not medically cleared), Michel (not medically cleared), Gallese (international duty), Sebas Mendez (international duty), and Kyle Smith (not on the injury report but also not on the match day roster).
The first meeting of 2020 also took place in Central Florida in the MLS is Back Tournament on July 14, when Mueller’s brace and a late Tesho Akindele insurance goal led Orlando to a 3-1 win. Jesus Medina scored for NYCFC. That win snapped Orlando City’s 0-4-3 streak in the previous seven competitive meetings with the Pigeons. The last match in that winless streak against NYCFC was a 1-1 draw with the Lions then dispatching NYCFC from the U.S. Open Cup in a penalty shootout on July 10, 2019. That night has been immortalized for the running of The Wall and Adam Grinwis’ heroics in goal.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw on April 27, 2019 at Yankee Stadium. 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 in 2019 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 Mueller and Akindele and may have had a third from the spot when Chanot handled the ball in the box but no penalty was given.
The Lions had lost four straight games in the series prior to 2019’s trio of draws. Orlando’s last victory in the series prior to that 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.
Orlando enters the match on a three-game unbeaten streak, having just earned its first win of the season last Saturday, 3-0 against FC Cincinnati. The Lions are 1-0-1 at home and have not allowed a goal at Exploria Stadium in 2021. However, the Pigeons have by far the most dynamic attack that Orlando has seen so far this season.
New York City FC is 1-1-0 on the road this year but has won its last two straight matches overall, after a 2-1 loss at D.C. United to open the season. NYCFC beat Cincinnati at Yankee Stadium and then followed that up with a 2-0 win over the defending Supporters Shield-winning Philadelphia Union last weekend. The Union were down a man in that match and also in the midst of heavy fixture congestion due to the Concacaf Champions League, but the Pigeons’ road win was still impressive.
Look for New York City FC to try to keep the ball and build attacks, with Maxi Moralez providing the most danger in both the buildup and the finish. Valentin Castellanos and Medina are also attacking players the Lions must track carefully. At the back end, Alfredo Morales and Keaton Parks are difficult to play through, as is James Sands when he’s in midfield, although he may need to cover for Chanot on the back line as he did last week. Sean Johnson is a quality goalkeeper and it will require sharpness with the final ball to beat him.
“New York City will be a great measurement for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said on Thursday. “It’s another great rival in our conference. For sure we’ll be fighting (for) high spots in the standings, and we’re excited to play them this weekend. The matches against New York use have that tendency to be very emotional.”
The Lions are missing Alexandre Pato (knee surgery), and Pareja said Uri Rosell (lower body), who is listed officially as questionable, won’t be available. David Loera (lower body) has been upgraded from out to questionable and Joao Moutinho (lower body) is still listed as questionable despite seeing some minutes late in last weekend’s game. Robin Jansson, who dressed last week but did not play, is off the injury report.
NYCFC is missing Thiago Andrade (visa) and Heber (knee) for sure, while Maxime Chanot (adductor) and Gedion Zelalem (hamstring) are listed as questionable.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report gives 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 the New York City FC game and we were joined by Christian from Hudson River Blue.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Mauricio Pereyra, Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso, Chris Mueller.
Forwards: Nani, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Brandon Austin, Joao Moutinho, Rio Hope-Gund, Joey DeZart, Andres Perea, Silvester van der Water, Alexander Alvarado, Matheus Aias, Benji Michel.
New York City FC (3-5-2)
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson.
Defenders: Alexander Callens, James Sands, Maxime Chanot.
Midfielders/Wingbacks: Gudmundur Thórarinsson, Keaton Parks, Andres Jasson, Jesus Medina, Anton Tinnerholm.
Forwards: Valentin Castellanos, Nicolas Acevedo.
Bench: Luis Barraza, Sebastien Ibeagha, Malte Amundsen, Chris Gloster, Vuk Latinovich, Justin Haak, Tony Rocha, Tayvon Gray, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
Ref: Robert Sibiga.
AR1: Peter Manikowski.
AR2: Adam Wienckowski.
4th: Rubiel Vazquez.
VAR: Chico Grajeda.
How to Watch
Match Time: 6 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on WatchESPN.
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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