For only the second time this season, Orlando City plays away from the friendly confines of Orlando City Stadium. This time they are going on the road to Yankee Stadium to face NYCFC, one of the more potent and unpredictable sides in MLS. Loaded with star power and under the guidance of coach Patrick Viera, the Bronx Renters made it to the MLS playoffs last season. And this year NYCFC is off to a quick start, scoring 10 goals while giving up only five. And David Villa has already turned in at least one stunning long-distance strike that will be a candidate for MLS goal of the year.
On the other hand, Orlando City is on pace to claim the top defense in the East, allowing a mere 0.8 goals per match to this point in the season. And while they have been close to having a breakout game in terms of scoring, Orlando City has not managed to score more than 2 goals in any match. Today could prove to be a difference maker, however. It is the first time Jason Kreis will coach against NYCFC in Yankee Stadium; NYCFC is also an opponent Orlando City love facing--all time they are 4 - 1 - 2 against today's home side, and they have won four of the last five matches against NYCFC.
Players to Watch
For NYCFC, two of the three usual suspects will be out in force today. Forward Khiry Shelton is sidelined with a hamstring injury (something OCSC fans know about all too well), but forward David Villa and midfielder Andrea Pirlo are expected to be in the Starting XI. It's also worth keeping an eye on Maximiliano Morales, who has one goal and two assists on the young season for NYCFC so far, and is the top scoring midfielder for the home side in terms of MLS Fantasy points.
For the visitors, Orlando City have started the season with the best defense in the young franchise's history, led by offseason acquisitions Jonathan Spector and Will Johnson. Meanwhile Cyle Larin has scored the lion's share of the goals, with the only two scores not coming from him being delivered by Defender Will Johnson and holding Midfielder Servando Carrasco, who scored in relief of Antonio Nocerino after he had to leave the match with a first-half calf injury back on April 9. But Carlos Rivas and Giles Barnes have been close to scoring on countless occasions, and it feels like they are both overdue for getting their first goals on the year.
And one wildcard on the day is Orlando City's milk-carton Captain, Kaka, who has missed all but 10 minutes of the season. As of this week, his status has been upgraded to "questionable," meaning that we could see him in the 18-man roster today, but it's very unlikely he will crack the starting lineup, and I'm doubtful he will get any play time today unless it's in some garbage time minutes near the end of the match once a result is certain one way or the other.
There are a battle of trends and streaks on the line today. NYCFC is leading the MLS in completed passes, with an average of over 459 per match. The home side is also unbeaten in their last 11 home matches, boasting a 9 - 0 - 2 record stretching back into last season. Meanwhile, Orlando City have won only two of their last 17 road matches, going 2 - 8 - 7 over that period, including losing their only road match of 2017, 0 - 2 at Columbus, who are currently tied atop the East table a single point ahead of Orlando City.
But balanced against that is the dominant record Orlando City holds over today's home side, including Cyle Larin's seven goals in six matches against NYCFC, the most he has scored against any MLS opponent. There's also a bit of revenge on the line, as Jason Kreis would likely love to rub the noses of the NYCFC ownership in it by beating their precious Bronx Renters on their borrowed pitch. In all fairness to the home team, their Euro-centric philosophy and policy of importing so much talent from the top leagues in Europe matches much better with the coaching style of Patrick Viera, and Jason Kreis has found much more success in getting top performances out of the largely American (North, Central, and South American) roster in Orlando City than did former skipper Adrian Heath.
Orlando City and NYCFC have the two best defenses in the East, and Orlando City has raced out to an incredible pace of collecting 2.4 points per match. I think Orlando City improves on their last road match, but that NYCFC continues their unbeaten streak at Yankee Stadium. I'm calling for a 1 - 1 draw today with lots of close calls for Orlando City's strikers and lots of great saves by Joe Bendik.
What about you--what do you expect to see on the day? Do you think this is the match that Barnes and Rivas will have their breakout and score? Will this be a match that Orlando City breaks the two-goal cap and scores a flurry of goals? Or will Orlando City be unable to break the road curse and leave all the points to the home side at Yankee Stadium today? Let me know in the comments below!