New York City FC draws Orlando in stronger performance

New York City FC. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
New York City FC. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

New York City FC performed strongly in draw against Orlando City SC.

On Wednesday, New York City FC went down to Florida to face Orlando City SC in their second meeting this year.  However, before the team took the field, the bad news came out: James Sands suffered a fracture in his right foot.  According to the club, the 20-year-old Homegrown will likely miss the remainder of the season.  Sands had become a staple in the defensive midfield, and his loss will likely impact the team going forward.

Despite the news, the Pigeons were able to grab a point against the Lions.  In a stronger and optimistic performance, NYCFC finished the game 1-1.  At first, they looked similar to the New England Revolution match, lackluster, and weak in the defense.  The first part of the first half was not pretty, for the team struggled to regain possession and had multiple missed passes.  Plus, Orlando scored the opening goal from a Chris Mueller header in the 18th minute.

However, despite the uneasy start, New York City FC slowly began to creep into the game.  They started to regain possession and keep the ball for longer periods of time.  Valentín Castellanos, who has been struggling with goals, ran into the midfield more often to chase and sometimes retake the ball from Orlando.  While he did not score, his overall performance was aspiring and had three shots overall.

New York City FC continue to head in the right direction

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Toward the end of the first half, NYCFC emerged further into the attack.  Orlando started to back off a little, and the Pigeons took their chances.  And finally, they were able to pull one back right before halftime.

After giving the ball away in the attacking third, the Pigeons were able to regain possession right away in the 43rd minute.  Castellanos passed the ball to Jesús Medina, who then passed the ball right back to him.

Castellanos then made a sweet and easy pass to Keaton Parks, who shot the ball straight to Orlando’s keeper, Brian Rowe.  Unfortunately for Rowe, he could not grab the ball, and it rolled toward goal.  Parks thenceforth took the opportunity to follow up and tapped the ball into the back of the net.

The game might have ended 1-1, and there might have been no goals in the second half, but the Pigeons’ performance in the final 45 minutes was night and day compared to the weekend’s game against New England.  They led the Lions in possession and kept the ball in the attacking half.  Players were more confident and composed and kept attacking as if their life depended on it.

Defensively, following the first half of the first 45, New York City FC was much improved.  The team limited their opponent’s chances and regulated Sean Johnson’s workload.  Furthermore, the defensive players recovered the ball more easily and without delay.  Hence, the team moved back up the pitch into the attack, increasing their opportunities.

Even players like Gary Mackay-Steven had a more convincing performance.  His missed passes decreased and brought more opportunities into the attack.  In stoppage time of the first half, Anton Tinnerholm, who adjusted after a rough start, had a precise pass to Mackay-Steven.  The Scottish born player made a swift pass to Medina, who unfortunately could not do anything in the box.  Yet, the increase in passes like this, and better runs from Mackay-Steven, showed progress.

Nonetheless, he still has a long way to go.  This is evident because when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi came on for him in the 73rd minute, the Libyan international immediately became an option in the attack.  Right away he offered an option for his teammates to pass to and was repeatedly open.  Additionally, while Mackay-Steven had two shots on goal out of two shots in the 73 minutes, the winger had a shot on goal out of two shots for the remainder of the game.  Isi was also hastier on the right side moving up the pitch and felt present the entirety of his playing time.

New York City FC looked like a different side against Orlando.  In some ways, it was an unexpected performance, for the Pigeons have struggled against the better teams in the Eastern Conference.  Orlando also has outplayed them in recent games.  But every single player came out, proving they are still ready to climb up the Eastern Conference.  This was particularly expressed in the latter 45 minutes.

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Unfortunately, despite their work effort in the second half, they were unable to grab that second goal.  This was another game where they should have gotten the three points, but goal-scoring issues amongst the attacking players were missing in action.  This is still a major concern, and as the season dwindles down, NYCFC must find these goals.  But alas, a point was picked up on the road, and the team played with fight and heart.  There is much to improve on, but maybe this is the step in the right direction for the rest of the season.