The Lions' took on fellow expansion team New York City FC for the first time in the opening match of the 12th annual Carolina Cup Challenge, providing a preview of their Major League Soccer (MLS) home-opener at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on March 8, 2015. Tickets are available online at www.OrlandoCitySC.com or via phone at 855-ORL-CITY.
Both teams battled to a 1-1 draw in a thrilling fixture in Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. A full house of over 5,000 including a strong contingent of Orlando City supporters watched team captain Kaká score the first goal of the match in the 31st minute, but New York City FC’s David Villa set up Khiry Shelton's goal in the second half to level the score-line.
“I think the fact that we’ve had a lot of hype for the two clubs has been really good,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Our team put out a really good effort and defended the ball well. We still have a lot of work to do, but overall I’m very pleased with where we are three weeks out of the first game of the season.”
Kaká continued to cause problems for the NYCFC backline in the first half when he received a well-timed through-ball in behind from 20-year-old Honduran Designated Player Bryan Róchez. He attempted to chip NYCFC GK Josh Saunders on his ensuing chance, but Saunders did well to push it wide.
Although both sides finished the half level with five shots each, the Lions’ defense faced very little pressure in the opening 45 following Villa's early effort off the crossbar - capably maintaining the clean-sheet with a 1-0 advantage at the half.
The Lions made only one substitution – Darwin Cerén for Ciristian Higuita – at the start of the second half. But both sides introduced entirely different lineups with 20 minutes left in the match.
The fresh legs reignited the intensity and both sides began exchanging chances. Pedro Ribeiro came close to giving the Lions the lead with a strong header from a free kick but saw his chance go just over the crossbar. On the ensuing play, NYCFC created a dangerous opportunity that was deflected wide for a corner.
As the game approached the final minutes, Cascio provided a final attempt for the Lions to secure the win, hitting a powerful shot on goal that was saved by the keeper. After two minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew the final whistle, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
The 2015 MLS season kicks off at the Orlando Citrus Bowl as the Lions host New York City FC on March 8, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. ET. This time it’s for real…