ORLANDO, Fla. (March 5, 2017) – In the first Major League Soccer (MLS) match at Orlando City Stadium, Orlando City SC (1-0-0, 3 points) picked up its first Opening Day victory with a 1-0 win over 2015 expansion rival New York City FC (0-1-0, 0 points). Cyle Larin scored the game’s only goal on a beautiful cross from newly acquired forward Giles Barnes.
“Obviously I’m extremely pleased. The level of work and commitment and togetherness from our team was off the charts,” Lions Head Coach Jason Kreis said. “Tonight the guys continued to fight, continued to stay together. There were mistakes happening but people had positive reactions to those mistakes and we made plays. Big, big night for everybody defensively, and that’s something to build on.”
The play of City’s revamped back line, which featured newcomers Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector and Will Johnson alongside formidable Uruguayan centerback José Aja, helped Lions goalkeeper Joe Bendik keep the sheet clean as New York City controlled much of the run of play.
Bendik, who won MLS Save of the Week 11 times in 2016 while posting the second-highest saves total in the league, came up with several huge stops. In the 53rd minute, Bendik and Aja combined for a save on Jack Harrison’s driving shot from seven yards out. Bendik got a hand on it while Aja partially blocked it with his foot. Then, in the 86th minute, Bendik dove to his left to stop Sean Okoli’s hard shot from distance. He finished with seven saves.
Despite New York City controlling 68.4 percent of possession, it was City that broke through first and only. In the 15th minute, just four minutes after Barnes entered the match, Carlos Rivas slipped a perfectly weighted ball on the left wing that the forward floated to Larin at the far post with his first touch as a Lion. The Canadian drove a header down off the ground, beating goalkeeper Sean Johnson’s outstretched hands and into the side netting for the first goal in Orlando City Stadium history.
It was an outstanding debut for Barnes, who was acquired from Vancouver via trade on Feb. 25. The Jamaican international made several excellent passes, showed his ball skills and was a workhorse on defense, tracking back to prevent multiple NYC counterattacks. He showed immediate chemistry with Rivas, who also earned an assist on Larin’s goal, and took several shots that nearly found the back of the net.
The deafening roar of the sellout crowd of 25,527 reverberated off the four-sided canopy roof after Larin’s header. The supporters remained loud throughout the first half and certainly helped the Lions hold off NYC’s potent attack. Their chants continued into the second half as they rained down on NYC’s goalkeeper and back line.
Larin’s goal proved to be all the Lions needed to secure their first Opening Day win in three tries after securing thrilling, last-second draws in 2015 and 2016.
“It’s a good result. I’m extremely happy to give the fans something to be excited about. The crowd was absolutely fantastic. The stadium was fantastic. The field was great,” Kreis continued. “Hopefully it’s every single home game that kind of energy and that kind of passion because I truly do believe that fans can help teams to win points.”
New York City made several second-half substitutions in search of the equalizer but Kreis countered with his own to secure the win. Stalwart defensive midfielder Cristian Higuita came on in place of Larin in the 74th minute and 2016 MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Hadji Barry replaced Matías Pérez García in the 89th.
The Lions head to New England to take on the Revolution on Saturday, March 11, before returning to Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, March 18, to host the Philadelphia Union.
Tickets to all City home matches are available at OrlandoCitySC.com or by calling 855-ORL-CITY. Follow the latest Orlando City news and updates via Facebook, Twitter,Instagram and YouTube.
1’ A purple haze descends upon Orlando City Stadium as its first ever MLS match begins. The Lions attack with The Wall at their backs.
2’ Carlos Rivas intercepts a pass and quickly feeds Larin on the six-yard box but the ball skips just over Larin’s outstretched leg.
8’ Matías Pérez García picks up a loose ball in the defensive third and quickly swings it out to Kaká on the left wing. The Brazilian drives into the box before getting off a shot that is blocked.
11’ Giles Barnes enters the match in place of Kaká, marking Barnes’ Orlando City debut.
15’ Rivas slips a ball through to Barnes on the left wing. Barnes lofts a ball up to Larin at the far post and the Canadian bounces a header past Sean Johnson for the first goal in Orlando City Stadium history.
17’ Joe Bendik makes his first save of the season on a slow, bouncing volley from David Villa. Bendik finished 2016 with 114 saves, good for second in MLS.
32’ Bendik makes an excellent save as he charges out to stop Alex Ring after he got in behind the back line.
45 (+1)’ After one minute of added time, the referee ends the first half. Orlando City 1, New York City 0.
46’ Jose Aja clears the danger with a header out of the box. Bendik easily catches another lofting cross.
51’ Barnes steals the ball and flies up the left wing but his through ball to Larin is intercepted. Bendik makes another easy catch.
53’ Bendik makes his best save of the night on a shot from Jack Harrison. Harrison ripped a shot from seven yards out that Aja got a foot on and Bendik got a hand on.
56’ NYC prepares for their fifth corner kick of the night. Andrea Pirlo drives a ball in that is easily dealt with.
62’ Carlos Rivas gets a great ball on the right wing and drives a strong cross for Larin but Larin can’t get a shot off. Bendik follows it up with a strong diving save to his right.
73’ Cristian Higuita enters the match in place of Cyle Larin.
77’ Aja makes another strong aerial play on the ball to clear the danger.
79’ Donny Toia makes several slick moves to make space down the left wing before passing to Rivas on his left foot. The Colombian takes a few touches before whizzing a shot just over the bar.
81’ Pérez García makes a good catch and takes a touch to the inside before flicking a ball over the back line for Barnes, but Sean Johnson runs it down.
86’ Bendik makes another great save, this time diving to his left and deflecting a ball out for a corner. He follows it up with another save on Sean Okoli.
88’ Hadji Barry enters the match in place of Pérez García.
90(+1)’ Rivas plays a one-two off Servando Carrasco and rips a shot from 19 yards that skims the left post.
90 (+4)’ After four minutes of added time, the referee ends the match. Orlando City wins the first ever match in its new stadium. Final score Orlando CIty 1, New York City 0.
ORL - Cyle Larin (Giles Barnes, Carlos Rivas) 15’
NYC - Rodney Wallace (Yellow Card) 30’
ORL - Will Johnson (Yellow Card) 61’
NYC - Alex Ring (Yellow Card) 67’
Orlando City SC - GK Joe Bendik, D Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, José Aja, Will Johnson, M Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco, Kaká (c) (Giles Barnes 11’), Matías Pérez García (Hadji Barry 88’), F Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin (Cristian Higuita 73’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Josh Saunders, D Seb Hines, M Richie Laryea, PC
New York City FC - GK Sean Johnson, D Maxime Chanot, Alex Callens, RJ Allen (Tommy McNamara 77’), Ronald Mattarita, M Alex Ring (Sean Okoli 84’), Maxi Morález, Andrea Pirlo, F Jack Harrison, Rodney Wallace (Khiry Shelton 64’), David Villa Ⓒ
Substitutes Not Used: GK Eirik Johansen, D Ethan White, Frederic Brillant, M Yangel Herrera
Details of the Game:
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Date: March 5, 2017
ORL - 31.6 %
NYC - 68.4 %
ORL - 7
NYC - 14
ORL - 7
NYC - 0
ORL - 10
NYC - 12
ORL - 1
NYC - 9