The tale of two cities ended even when who else but Kaka found the equalizer in the dying minutes – in a game that could be categorised as almost enjoyable.
The build up to the game was equally enjoyable with two new MLS franchises, record-breaking (not MLS but Orlando city) fans, Spanish David Villa and Brazilian Kaka on display.
Also witnessed was the mass of purple vocally spilling out the historic background of the two with a “You ain’t got no history” reserved for the Blues.
For majority of the first half, the hosts dominated the game with majority of the play running through Kaka. Several attempts were made to break either defences but both teams played their way out of trouble. Veteran GK of NYCFC Josh Saunders showed why he is still admired with some decent saves while playing through what seemed like an injury that had concussion written all over it.
A Lewis Neal cross launched very deep into the back post saw Josh Saunders back-pedalling to catch it, but was caught by the onrushing Seb Hines who clattered him, sending Saunders crashing into the post, striking the back of his head. After all said and done, the brave keeper only had a nasty looking bump to show on his head. But was still shocking to me that he was still in the game.
While Kaka dictated the offensive lineup for the hosts, the same could not be said about David Villa or for that matter, any of the City players in the first half.
The pace of the game was rather sporadic with Orlando showing drive to get the first goal. As mentioned earlier, NYCFC coach Jason Kreis’s roster was never going to show that brilliance of technical abilities, we crave, on the field but would remain steadfast on their duties. It was on display tonight.
It was clear that, the visitors had to change tactics to bring Villa into the game, which came in the form of 21-year-old Khiry Shelton. The front man was able to provide the depth and pace for NYCFC which either Nemec or Villa, could not provide.
A burst of offensive play was observed from the Blues with Shelton playing a fundamental role in all of them.
It started off with an NYCFC counter, as Shelton drove a low ball to the back post which asked a little too much from the advancing Nemec. It was the first of many signs of Orlando’s ability to lose focus in the back.
Minutes later, Nemec had an opportunity to score the first goal of the game, with Shelton again providing a good ball to Nemec with acres of space for him to tuck it past the keeper or at least attempt a shot at goal, but he blazed it over.
The goal came against the round of play, when Diskerud was able to curl a lovely shot around OCSC keeper Ricketts, inside the far post. But credit goes to Shelton here as it was his attempt to keep his foot while tussling with the defender to earn a corner of play that could have turned into nothing. That short set piece led to Villa picking up the play, dropping his shoulders and with a bit of some luck, slipping it onto the path of Diskerud.
Studs up challenge from Collin, late in the half, left Orlando playing with 10 men. But it did not deter their resolve in pulling one back.
A lazy foul from Grabavoy on Molino, just under 25 yards from goal resulted in Kaka’s free kick being deflected on towards the goal while Saunders was left hanging.
Villa looked frustrated after the game possibly because of the minimal impact he had in it. However, the performance of both teams were not as inordinate as one would have expected but it is only fair to say these are two teams still absorbing what its like to play in the MLS.
For NYCFC, their identity as part of the City Football Group was well defined. Having given up a goal in the dying minutes was surely reminiscent of similar events from their parent club. For now, NYCFC has plenty of time to take on the positives and learn from the mistakes as they entertain New England Revolution at home next week.