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The Orlando City Lions pulled off a dramatic comeback from a two-goal deficit to draw New York City in their home stadium to kick off their MLS season.
“Like we said: you either sit and feel sorry for yourself or you get out, and you keep believing, and you keep pushing, and you keep doing the things we’d spoken about, said Orlando City manager James O’Connor after the game. “ I think we were very unfortunate not to go on and win the game at the end.”
The Lions began the game in a 5-3-2 formation and adjusted at half time to a 3-5-2 when they were down 0-2.
Orlando City was able to create chances right off the bat, but their pressure changed when New York scored their first goal in the 13th minute. Midfielder Ebenezer Ofori blasted a rocket shot from his left foot from outside the penalty arc, which flew past Orlando’s keeper Brian Rowe to make it 1-0 for New York.
After the first goal, New York controlled the first half. In the 45th minute, NYCFC’s second goal came from midfielder Alexander Ring, who took a beautiful long pass from Alexandru Mitrita, who went through a few defenders before getting a shot past Rowe to extend New York’s lead to 2-0.
The Lions came into the 2nd half with a mindset that they could make a comeback. They pressured more and created chances; which may have come from the switch to a more aggressive formation.
The Lions first goal came in the 59th minute from a freekick by forward Chris Mueller, which tightened New York’s lead to 2-1 with a half-hour left to play.
In the 70th minute, Nani, Orlando City’s highly touted transfer from Sporting CP, was subbed in along with striker Dom Dwyer.
Five minutes later, Nani was in possession of the ball on the left side of the pitch. He played it to Dwyer, who dribbled all the way to the box before he crossed it to forward Tesho Akindele – who was able to score the equalizer.
“I thought they came in and they made a huge impact,” Akindele said after the game of Nani and Dwyer’s substitutions.
The Lions were able to fend off New York’s attack until the final whistle to get a point out of their first match of the season. Orlando City has not lost an opening match in franchise history.
The Lions will pay a visit to the Chicago Fire for Saturday’s 1 p.m. match. It will be broadcast on ESPN+ and YouTube TV.