Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Three Things to Watch For



You know the deal. You’ve spent the years and months and weeks and now days waiting. Orlando City SC is playing New York City FC in MLS action Sunday at 5 p.m. You can see it on ESPN 2 if you’re not lucky enough to be in the overflowing Citrus Bowl.

Here are some things to think about as you lock in on total purple bliss:

1. Who Takes Over?

These two teams are playing their first match in MLS ever, but in terms of talent, these sides do not lack in the slightest. In fact, these two teams could possibly earn playoff berths in their first season. This doesn’t happen often.

Breaking down OCSC specifically, the team is pretty intimidating. Going beyond Kaká, the Lions have quite a few MLS veterans. This, along with the six players currently representing their country’s youth teams, provides a culture that is built to last in any sport. Seriously, Orlando has been building a winning structure for years.

Within every league that’s ever been successful, expansion teams are really young, and tend to struggle. Sunday will show just how powerful Orlando City is, technically, creatively and physically. NYCFC is no pushover either. David Villa and Mix Diskerud are talented, and this squad is built to attack. Orlando will have its hands full with this group.

Both teams will come out looking for an opening but the game might start a bit timidly, with no one wanting to make a mistake in their first match as an MLS club. Watch for players who are decisive and look to make their impact on the game, rather than those who react and are content to possess the ball and wait for a mistake. These are likely to be guys that we’ve mentioned above, such as Villa, Diskerud, Kaká or Brek Shea, but they could just as easily be newcomers looking to make their mark, like Kevin Molino or Khiry Shelton.

2. Atmospheric Effects
You’ve been hearing it all week, but that’s only because it’s so amazing. When the Lions and NYCFC take to the artificial pitch on Sunday, they’ll do it in front of a small city.

The 62,000+ fans in attendance will mark one of Major League Soccer’s largest ever crowds.Seattle’s Century Link Field holds 67,000 people, and the screams from their beloved “12th Man” reached 137.6 decibels in 2013. The crowd attending Orlando City’s inaugural game could replicate that volume.

That can’t help but impact the game. But how?

Will a willingness to please the masses cause Orlando City players to take a chance they shouldn’t, leading to a deadly counterattack? Or will the Lions feed off the crowd’s energy and press hard, scoring goals and forcing New York City into mistakes? Could the crowd noise affect the communication of teams that haven’t been together very long? If so, which one will suffer most?

If the game remains tied or Orlando City takes the lead, look for signs that the crowd is affecting the game. If NYCFC nets the first goal, it could take that variable right out of the equation, but it will be interesting to see which team overcomes its opening day jitters first in the face of that purple mob.

3. Central Command

This match will likely be won or lost by those in the middle of the pitch, so keep an eye on the midfielders. Orlando City had a bit of trouble with midfield turnovers against Houston in the last preseason game, so that’s something to monitor carefully, as NYCFC has a plethora of attacking midfielders.

Diskerud is the big name in that part of the field for the visitors. He and Orlando defensive mid Amobi Okugo might be the most important battle on the pitch. Mix will look to get forward and involve his teammates in the attack. Okugo will try to turn New York over and provide coverage for others moving forward.

Oh, and don’t forget that Brazilian guy wearing No. 10 for Orlando City.

That’s about it. Keep your eye on the things we talked about. Nothing left to do but kick off on Sunday. Okugo is ready.


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