Orlando City (3-3-3, 12 points) denied New York City FC (2-1-6, 12 points) a third straight win in seven days as the Lions left Yankee Stadium with a point after a 1–1 draw. The result means New York City remains unbeaten at home in 2019 (1-0-4). It was the second time the teams have shared the points in league play this year after an opening weekend 2–2 draw.
Head Coach James O’Connor made only one change to last week’s side, recalling Tesho Akindele up front in place of Dom Dwyer. According to reports on My65, Dwyer picked up a minor knock in training late this week.
It was New York City threatening early, giving Orlando a scare in the sixth minute, courtesy of a lofted ball that put Anton Tinnerholm in behind a scrambling Orlando back line — a cross-field ball New York continually looked for throughout the game. The Swede fired in a low cross before making a half-hearted claim for handball off his sliding countryman, Robin Jansson, but referee Drew Fischer wasn’t interested.
Orlando’s first venture into the box came off a quick counter down the left in the 10th minute, with Akindele holding the ball up well before feeding Chris Mueller at the top of the box but the ball was quickly stolen off his toe as he looked to set himself.
Despite NYC’s domination of possession, it was the Lions who struck first, as they were more clinical in their second visit into the New York area. This time, play came from Ruan off the right wing. The fullback’s cross was cut out by Maxime Chanot, but the clearance was weak and fell kindly at the feet of Nani, who calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner in the 18th minute, extending the Portuguese international’s scoring run to four consecutive games.
New York City went close in the 25th minute, as a whipped Maxi Moralez free kick found the head of an onrushing Héber, New York’s newest number nine, but the Brazilian didn’t catch the header well and Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe was quick to show off his reflexes to push the ball over.
The game continued to stretch as a combination of a sliding Sean Johnson and a Chanot goal-line clearance prevented Nani from doubling his tally a minute later, before Lamine Sané was forced into an outstanding recovery challenge on Héber at the other end, as the home team continued to force the issue and attempt to find an equalizer.
Orlando thought it had doubled its lead in the 33rd minute when Akindele poked home at the back post, as New York City once again was undone by defensive errors, only for it to be chalked off by video review, as Fischer found Nani to be offside in the buildup.
That decision seemed to swing momentum in favor of the home side and drop Orlando heads, with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi agonizingly sending his shot an inch wide of Rowe’s post a minute after the goal was overturned — a moment that would’ve left City fans and a stranded Rowe alike holding their breath.
New York continued to ask questions and, despite surviving the onslaught, Orlando’s defensive efforts were far from convincing. Sané hacked wildly at a cross, nearly slicing it into his own goal, only for Jansson and Rowe to save his blushes. It was then their turn as miscommunication between the aforementioned Jansson and Rowe nearly gifted NYCFC a goal: the Orlando goalkeeper spilled what should have been a routine collection on yet another Moralez cross but a combination of the jumping Swede and a lurking Héber did enough to put off Rowe, who was relieved to fall on the loose ball at the second time of asking.
In the 44th minute, a Mendez long ball found its way through to Nani, who thought he had a strong penalty appeal as he looked to cut inside but was taken out. Fischer was unmoved by the appeals, as Nani sat on the floor throwing his arms up in disbelief, but play continued with no VAR check.
After an entertaining half for the neutrals, Orlando went in at halftime leading 1-0. The coaches would have been less pleased with a blistering end-to-end game riddled with defensive errors that somehow had only produced one goal.
New York’s tenacity paid off early in the second half. Moralez, by far the busiest player on the pitch, drove up the field and forced Rowe into a spectacular diving save from distance. Rowe could only push it onto the post and Héber was there to sweep in the rebound, tying the game up six minutes after the break.
Alexander Callens and Moralez once again tried from distance as the Pigeons went in search of a second and continued to see much of the possession.
Dwyer made his fifth substitute appearance of the season in the 62nd minute, as O’Connor had seen enough of his side’s second-half struggles. The substitution did very little to put Orlando on the front foot, as the defense remained under near-permanent pressure and he was fortunate to avoid a booking in the first few seconds, fouling Callens late after the ball had been cleared.
Another teasing set piece was once again dealt with unconvincingly in the 65th minute. This time, the ball pinballed around the box before Joao Moutinho eventually hoofed clear.
Dwyer eventually got a first look at goal in the 68th minute when a cross from Ruan found him unmarked three yards out. He had the whole goal to aim at, but the English-American, who has regularly come into criticism this season as he has struggled to put away chances, headed wide.
O’Connor’s second change saw him turn to Sacha Kljestan in the 74th minute, sacrificing Sebas Mendez in another attempt to create something further up the pitch.
A quick free kick caught Orlando napping for the second time this season with Sané left one on one with Moralez. The gifted Argentine nutmegged Sané, but Uri Rosell was there to tidy up and boot the ball away for a corner.
Alexandru Mitrita came into the game in the 77th minute, a like-for-like replacement with Tajouri-Shradi as Dome Torrent looked to inject some fresh legs into the game and find a winner with New York City looking dominant over a tiring Orlando, which had spent much of the second half chasing shadows. New York’s possession was still 65% by this point.
As if Torrent’s intentions weren’t clear enough, the Spaniard then took off defender Ben Sweat and gambled for the win with attacking midfielder Valentín Castellanos, who had scored NYC’s winner on Wednesday night against Chicago.
Orlando was once again left questioning Fischer’s refereeing when Jansson picked up a yellow in unusual circumstances. The center back was penalized for holding off Heber and New York was awarded a highly questionable free kick — not for the first time in the game. Fortunately, Mitrita failed to capitalize, blasting it into the wall.
Tempers momentarily flared when Callens aggressively bounced back up and tried to get into the face of an already-apologizing Kljestan, who had tripped the Peruvian, a sign of the frustration as the tempo slowly dropped away from both teams in a testing stalemate that had seen New York City carve out a significant number of chances.
And there was still time for one last chance, with the diminutive Moralez once again snaking his way towards into box before firing into the side netting as precious seconds ticked away and all 11 Lions remained pinned in their own half.
It wasn’t the performance becoming of an Orlando team that has now played teams on short weeks in consecutive games, but a point on the road at conference opponents is never something to turn down. Despite New York’s complete control over possession and the huge disparity in terms of shots (15-3 in favor of NYCFC and 5-2 on target), it was actually Orlando that was perhaps closest to a winner, only for Dwyer to miss an open goal.
Orlando’s attention now turns to next Saturday’s home game and the visit of a resurgent Toronto FC side. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.