Orlando City will not be looking back on May as a month to be proud of, falling to 0-3-2 since the calendar turned from April after a 3-0 home loss to New York City FC. NYCFC avoided a three-game season series sweep to cap off a road trip of three games in eight days, thanks to a pair of goals from the reigning league MVP, David Villa.
The Lions continue to search for their first win since defeating the Colorado Rapids to close out the month of April and have two more games this month with a trip to Minnesota and a home meeting with D.C. United.
The game was a tale of two penalties for Orlando City (6-4-2, 20 points), which conceded one to Villa early in the match, before Cyle Larin missed one in the second half.
“Obviously grave, grave disappointment to lose our first game in front of our home fans,” Jason Kreis said of the result after the match. “I thought that the fans were excellent tonight. The atmosphere was terrific, the energy level and everything was good, and at the beginning of the game I thought things were going to go in a really positive direction for us, and then the penalty decision was made, and I think that took some air out of us.”
The Sunday night crowd — another sellout of 25,527 — was loud and raucous as always to begin the game, but quieted down early. That point came 14 minutes in, to be exact, when Villa converted a penalty kick for his seventh goal of the season, putting the visiting side up, 1-0. Kaká had been called for a handball in the box about a minute earlier when a cross attempt near the sideline ran directly into the arm of the incoming Brazilian. An unintentional handball, you can argue, but a blatant handball nonetheless.
Kaká didn’t bother to challenge the call, and regardless, Villa went low and to his right to beat Joe Bendik, who guessed correctly but couldn’t stop the well-placed shot.
Orlando City struggled to find any answers to NYCFC throughout the night, and didn’t present a lot of dangerous attack for New York’s defense.
In the sixth minute, Jonathan Spector found the speedy Carlos Rivas on a long ball over the defense that Rivas used to win a corner, but nothing came out of that. Rivas, who was active on the wings throughout the first half, whipped a cross to Larin, who was able to get his head on the ball but sent it nowhere near frame, out of play. The Lions weren’t able to produce anything from four corners in the first half.
Things went from bad to worse in the 35th minute when Rodney Wallace connected to find the back of the net, doubling the deficit. Jack Harrison took on Donny Toia down the Lions’ left side just long enough for Ethan White to make an overlapping run. Harrison laid the ball off to White, who sent a low pass across the goal that found Wallace, who buried it from a couple yards out.
Orlando had an opportunity to get back in the game in the 63rd minute when Scott Sutter was taken down in the penalty box off of a nice little give-and-go with Rivas. Larin stepped up to take the penalty — the Lions’ first of the season — and shanked it into the crossbar. It was an unlucky break for Orlando, which couldn’t find any breaks on the evening.
The Lions did, though, look a little better in the second half, in the sense that they actually put some decent chances up. Luis Gil, seconds after coming into the game, put a shot on frame from the edge of the penalty area. It challenged Sean Johnson, who saved the first effort, then collected the rebound attempt that bounced off of Matias Perez Garcia and just out of his reach as he couldn’t beat Johnson to the ball. About three minutes later, Sutter found Rivas with a nice cross from the wing. Rivas, in the middle of the box, put forward a rare header that sailed wide of goal.
NYCFC officially put the game out of reach in the 83rd when Villa added his second of the night. Villa ran forward with the ball before playing it off to Maxi Moralez on his left. Moralez quickly hit Villa forward with a ball over the defense, which went for the offside trap, leaving Villa all alone in front of Bendik, who couldn’t do much to stop what ended up as an open-net goal.
“Overall, it was not our night. I’m not going to sit here and say anything crass or disrespectful as if we were the better team, because we weren’t. New York City was very good tonight, and deserved the win,” Kreis said, referring to Patrick Vieira’s mid-week comments about NYCFC being the better team in the first two meetings this season.
The Lions will get a much-needed week of rest following this loss, but not that much time before they have to jump on a flight and head to Minneapolis, where they’ll meet former Orlando City boss Adrian Heath (should MLS decide to not suspend Heath for entering the field of play against LA on Sunday) and Minnesota United FC for the first time on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET.