Orlando City returned to the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium to take on Eastern Conference rival New York City FC on Sunday night. It’s getting a bit redundant to say how important points are at this stage of the season given how congested the Eastern Conference is, but it is also true. Fortunately, the Lions were able to pull out a late 2-1 victory over the Pigeons. What can we take away from the victory?
I had some serious questions going into this match regarding where the offense would come from, and it didn’t take Júnior Urso long to answer them. His seventh-minute strike wasn’t without controversy, as it had to go to video review to confirm he wasn’t offside, but in the end the goal was given. Urso is one of the players I mentioned who needed to step up in Mauricio Pereyra’s absence and he did.
Just before the 20th minute, the skies opened up, and the rain came down. Let me be clear, there are times on the television when it is raining and you can kind of tell. This was not that. This was a proper Central Florida downpour that grayed out the screen on the television feed. During this time, Thiago Martins ended up on the ground and eventually went off the pitch. This was not due to fouls from Orlando City, but simply what can happen in bad weather. The weather was so bad that there was a constant tapping sound on the television audio. It did eventually slow down, but by then the ball was dying on the pitch thanks to the water. The conditions were a significant impact for over 25 minutes in the first half. Let’s give respect to Orlando City’s entire grounds crew for making it all possible.
No Mauricio, No Problem
I’m certainly not saying that having Pereyra in the side wouldn’t have been better, but a win is a win. Orlando City needed to figure out a way to score goals without Pereyra pulling the strings, and the team did just that. Urso got back on the scoresheet and substitute Tesho Akindele was able to score a late winner for the second straight game. Urso, in particular, was dangerous, firing a team-high five shots with two on frame. Others who were key components of the offense included Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara, second-half sub Ivan Angulo, and even defensive midfielder Wilder Cartagena got far enough forward to attempt a couple of shots.
New York City FC never looked dangerous in possession in the match, but the visitors can always pose a threat on the counter. Orlando City let NYCFC back in the game early in the second half by repeatedly turning the ball over and the Pigeons finally made one of them pay off. Jake Mulraney’s giveaway led to the Maxi Moralez equalizer in the 53rd minute and the Lions nearly gave away two points in a tight Eastern Conference race.
Tesho Time Again
Orlando City seemed doomed to draw NYCFC at home, continuing a string of disappointments in Exploria Stadium. That was until Akindele scored his second game winner in a row — this time on a header from a corner kick in the 96th minute. Despair turned to elation both in Exploria Stadium and in my living room. As I mentioned literally last match, there are those who bemoan Tesho being on the squad, but the results speak for themselves. He isn’t a starting striker in MLS, but he is occasionally exactly the man that Orlando City needs late in important matches.
That is what I saw during the match. What did you see? Let me know in the comments section below.