Friday night is the evening when the two 2015 expansion sides meet again in their first matchup of the year. This matchup pits together two teams in search for a new resurgence in Major League Soccer in 2016 after inaugural campaigns that did not meet expectations last year.
On national TV, Unimas, Orlando City will search for their first win of the year. On the other side, NYCFC attempt to gain three points in front of their home crowd and jump into the first place spot in MLS and keep pace with the heavy hitters in the league.
2016 has not been the start to a season that Orlando City could have wished for. Has the first two games been filled with excitement? Sure, yes. Though, Orlando City has only gained two points out of a possible six, two draws against Chicago and RSL, both at home. Easily, the Lions could be sitting rock bottom of the MLS with no points at all, but luck has been on their side. Two goals in the last minute of the opening day encounter with Real Salt Lake salvaged one point for Orlando. Then, they barely hung on last Friday night to a Chicago team high on confidence after being reduced to ten men.
Last week was a tough pill to swallow for OCSC. The club from central Florida possessed the ball dominantly in the opening stages leading to Cyle Larin scoring his second of the campaign and first on the night in the 4th minute, a sweet strike that hit the upper right corner of the night. After the opener, OC let their foot off of the gas and Chicago began to find themselves in the match. The Chicago Fire found their equalizer in the 14th minute. Defender, John Goossens, delivered a hopeful ball down the field to David Accam who tremendously made up ground and latched onto the ball before Sebastian Hines could get his foot to it. Once Accam took control, he coolly slotted underneath Joe Bendik to level the score at 1-1.
Chicago was then reduced to ten men after fullback Michael Harrington made a reckless challenge on Brek Shea in the 32nd minute. From then on, there was a lack of creativity in the attacking edge for Orlando, limiting the home side to very few opportunities and chances to recover the lead in the match. Out of thirteen shots, only five hit the target, and one was the goal that Larin had scored. Unluckily, forward Pedro Ribeiro smashed the post in the last few minutes and the match ended at a 1-1 draw, leaving Orlando in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, four points off of the pace of Montreal Impact.
New York City FC
For New York City FC, goals have been easy to come by in the first two games, as they have smashed six into the opposition's net, though defensively has been a struggle for the team. After a below average year last year, the defense has been entirely revamped and has transformed into a makeshift back line of three with Frédéric Brillant, Jason Hernandez, and Rónald Matarrita manning the rear guard for NYC. The process of change has resulted in five goals being allowed in two games, tied for the most in MLS, though luckily the offense is bursting onto the scene. Currently NYC sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference with four points, a win against Chicago 4-3, and a 2-2 draw in their last match at home to Toronto FC from Sunday.
NYC took the game to Toronto, starting the match in a 3-4-3 formation, completely off guarding the opponents, and leading to persistent control in the first half with plenty of chances in front of the goal. The breakthrough occurred when Tommy McNamara was fouled in the box by Marco Delgado, leading to a penalty in which David Villa stepped up and stroked it home into the back of the net. Four minutes later, Villa gained control of a loose ball in the six yard box and shot past the keeper, Clint Irwin, taking the advantage to 2-0 in under 30 minutes. When all seemed to be going right for NYC leading into the halftime break, Sebastian Giovinco clutched up once again for the Canadian side.
In the 45th minute, the Atomic Ant as he is known as, delivered a beautiful cross off a free kick leading straight to Damien Perquis who finished off the play, notching his team back a goal. The NYCFC back line broke down once again in the 76th minute as no one stepped to Giovinco, who went on a brilliant solo run down the center of the park and shot a left footed strike just out of Josh Saunders reach. This goal leveled the two teams at 2-2 and that would be the final score as the whistle blew.
Kaka's Importance to OCSC
Orlando City finds themselves in quite the unfortunate situation with their main attacking playmaker out for yet another week due to a thigh strain, according to reports. With nine goals and seven assists in 2015, Kaka was the most influential and creative player in the side, and currently this is what Orlando is lacking right now.
In two games, the club has failed to really unlock opposing teams with clear cut chances, even struggling against ten man Chicago, and it's hard to do so when Kaka is not in the lineup. So, in a big and winnable game against NYCFC early in the year, who will step up for Orlando to provide Cyle Larin and company in the attack?
Especially with coach Adrian Heath running a 4-3-3 lineup but setting the formation up defensively, with three central midfielders across the center of the park, there is no player underneath Larin that can provide the support he needs to succeed at the highest of levels. In relation to that statement, Larin always played his best football last year with a number ten right underneath him giving service and pulling the strings all game. It will take an extra effort from Orlando in NYC and on a compact field in Yankee Stadium to start making chances and putting goals in the net.
Explosive NYC offense vs. Young Orlando defense
With the likes of Mix Diskerud, David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and company, NYC has an attacking presence that could be viewed as one of the strongest in the league if all players remain healthy and fit. Tony Taylor has stepped up at the left winger position and even Khiry Shelton is performing well with one goal and an assist in his second season in the league.
Don't forget about Tommy McNamara making a presence in an advanced central midfield role. All the players are clicking together for NYC attacking wise and that is a huge threat at an Orlando defense that is viable to letting teams attack strongly and with pace, for example, the fast front three of Real Salt Lake, and the quick and speedy David Accam of Chicago.
NYC are playing very well and are creating scoring opportunities consistently this season, which will test the young and inexperienced back line of Orlando. What will be interesting is if Heath decides to retain Brek Shea at the left back spot or move him back up the field to the winger position to add flavor to the attack.
Seb Hines has been a weak link in the Orlando squad and he will be on the radar of the NYC front men to attack. Center back Tommy Redding has played well and even earned himself a call up to the United States Under-20 National Team for the Dallas Cup on March 20th, but he will not miss this game for Orlando. Redding is reported to not miss this game; therefore it is important that he plays cleverly against a magical NYC attack. Redding's age and inexperience could be another factor that NYC aggressively pursues Friday night.
In three matches played against each other, Orlando and NYC tied 1-1 on opening day in 2015 at the Citrus Bowl. NYC took game two, a 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium. The last meeting between the two was in favor of Orlando City, 2-1 at the Citrus Bowl on October 16, 2015.