Orlando City played a clear B team against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium and when teams do that in Major League Soccer, they generally get killed. So it was with the Lions, as they were run off the tiny pitch at Yankee Stadium, losing 5-0 at NYCFC.
Orlando City (7-4-4, 25 points) has just one win in its last five matches, while a New York City FC (7-5-2, 23 points) club that had been struggling to score goals ran rampant. Not only did Orlando take its third loss in five, and suffer its worst loss under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, but the Lions also lost a lot of ground in the goal differential column. Orlando lost more ground to New England.
“Very difficult game,” Pareja said. “I think New York from the first minutes started just getting space. We couldn’t find a way to match the game. What I can tell you is our team is intact and we will bounce back. We go with no excuses. Tonight nothing bounced our way. We didn’t play well. We couldn’t put passes together. We have commitment with ourselves, and we will look in the mirror to see what needs to be better.”
Pareja went with the makeshiftiest of makeshift lineups. With Mauricio Pereyra suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Alexandre Pato apparently still out — despite having trained with the club for the last couple of weeks — and Nani and Chris Mueller not on the game-day roster, the bench featured two goalkeepers and five defenders, along with little-used Homegrown midfielder David Loera.
This lineup never seemed likely to get a result and was never close to getting one in this match.
Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Emmanuel Mas — making his first MLS appearance/start — Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. Joey DeZart steped into the starting central midfield with Uri Rosell, with Alexander Alvarado getting his first MLS start, along with Andres Perea in the facilitator roles for Benji Michel and Silvester van der Water at the top of the attack.
“We had a different look today with some different players,” Pareja said. “We had some challenges, but we’re not going to talk about those challenges, because I don’t want to make it sound like an excuse and we’re not going to have any excuse.”
It was Orlando’s first league game without Nani, Pereyra, or Junior Urso in the starting lineup since Aug. 3, 2019 and the first league game without any of them on the team sheet since July 18, 2019. It showed.
As one might reasonably expect from such a disjointed lineup, there was no cohesion going forward. The Lions were not able to string passes together in the attacking half and when they did, there were heavy touches that allowed New York City FC to take the ball away or there was confusion between players not knowing where to put the next ball. On a few occasions when everything else went right, a player would slip on the Yankee Stadium turf at the critical moment to spoil the buildup.
Maxi Moralez had the first good opportunity of the game in the 14th minute, heading wide off a cross from Keaton Parks. Orlando was well positioned for the cross, but the diminutive Moralez was able to get in front of his defender to get his head to it.
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi should have scored in the 17th minute but sent his shot wide. Mas did just enough to bother him to force the error. Two minutes later, no one closed down Moralez just outside the area and he sent a back-post ball that hit the top of the goal frame.
The Lions got their only good chance of the first half in the 20th minute. Perea sent van der Water in down the left and the Dutchman fired a blast on target but right at goalkeeper Luis Barraza, who made the save but spilled it. The defense came to his rescue and knocked it out for a corner.
The ensuing cross skipped into the box but NYCFC found the handle first and cleared.
After the water break just past the half-hour mark the Pigeons started circling. New York City FC started taking advantage of Orlando sagging from the wide areas and started fizzing in dangerous low crosses. In the 35th minute, Gallese made a spectacular point-blank save on Tajouri-Shradi and he did the same a minute later against Valentin Castellanos.
The breakthrough came in the 40th minute. A routine ball was sent forward for Castellanos, who grabbed Carlos, pushed him backward about five yards, and wrapped his arm around him. As a result, Carlos was off balance when he tried to clear and swung and missed the ball, hitting Castellanos instead. Medina picked up the loose ball and smashed a shot just under the crossbar to open the scoring. Carlos was booked on a play that easily could have been blown dead and ended in a yellow to Castellanos, but instead the hosts led 1-0.
Watch how far Castellanos moves Carlos on this play.
Had that not counted, it would hardly have kept NYCFC from winning the game easily, but it was the first leak in the dam for Orlando City.
DeZart freed himself for a shot in stoppage time but sent his shot well off target and that was the last decent look of the half.
NYCFC led in shots (10-3), shots on target (4-1), possession (57.8%-42.2%), and passing accuracy (80.8%-71.%). Each team had two corners.
Pareja made two changes at the break. He sent Ruan on for Smith, giving El Soldado his first minutes of rest all season. He also put Robin Jansson on for van der Water, moving to three at the back.
The Lions should have tied the match two minutes after the restart. Michel got down the right and crossed in to Perea just two yards in front of goal, but the shot was hit right at Barraza for an easy save. The Lions are left to wonder how the game might have unfolded had Perea knotted the score at the start of the second period and the inexperienced lineup given some confidence.
Instead, NYCFC seized control of the match.
Jansson misplayed Castellanos in the 50th, allowing the forward to get around him for a shot, but Gallese snared the chip attempt out of the air. Things got worse after that.
Tajouri-Shradi doubled the lead in the 53rd minute, isolating against Schlegel on the edge of the box. Mas was inside and couldn’t get over to help and Rosell slipped trying to close down, allowing the attacking player to smash a shot that Gallese perhaps should have parried away. The shot went through him and in to make it 2-0.
Moralez tried to chip Gallese in the 55th minute from long range but the Peruvian scrambled back to make the save. Gallese made another big save in the 63rd minute to deny Castellanos. A minute later, Moralez was left completely unmarked at the back post but hit his volley attempt wide.
Orlando finally looked to get out on the break in the 65th as a long throw found Michel down the left channel behind the defense. He turned toward goal, saw no options and ended up losing the ball trying to pass back.
Seconds later, Moralez crushed any hope of getting a point out of the match, pushing the lead to 3-0.
The closest the Lions came to scoring in the final half hour was a Maxime Chanot header that came dangerously close to being an own goal in the 72nd minute.
Malte Amundsen made it 4-0 in the 79th minute on a give-and-go that looked obvious on television but the Lions were slow to cover it.
Castellanos added a fifth just three minutes later off the rebound of another spectacular Gallese save.
Despite the big lead and Orlando playing five at the back, as well as defensive-minded players in the midfield, New York City FC just kept generating chances. Gallese was obviously struggling health-wise late in the match after a collision with Thiago during a clearance made him land awkwardly. But eventually the game mercifully came to an end.
New York City FC dominated the stat sheet, out-shooting the Lions 23-5 (15-3 on target), holding way more possession (61.1%-38.9%), earning more corners (6-5), and passing much more accurately (84%-74.8%).
“Just overall it was not a good game,” Carlos said through a club interpreter. “Everything that could go wrong went wrong. It was a day that the team couldn’t string together two passes. We’re going to get back to training and start working on all of the things that went wrong today.”
“How do we advance past this and how do we correct the mistakes that we had today is we just wake up tomorrow and automatically turn the page and look at getting ready for this weekend’s game, obviously hoping to change the outcome,” Mas said through a club interpreter.
The Lions have a lot of soul searching to do before kicking off back-to-back rivalry matches at home on Friday when Atlanta United visits Exploria Stadium.