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2015 expansion rivalry of New York City FC versus Orlando City SC resumes Saturday

Mar 17, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Orlando City goalkeeper Joseph Bendik (1) talks to New York City midfielder Yangel Herrera (30) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC versus Orlando City SC.  

This rivalry lacks the catchy “Clasico” or “Derby” jargon, but other than the Hudson River Derby against the New York Red Bulls, the Lions are NYCFC’s chief adversary.

The series began March 8, 2015 when the Major League Soccer expansion sides met for their league debuts in front of more than 60,000 spectators at the Citrus Bowl – former home of the Lions, who now play in soccer-specific Orlando City Stadium.

Kaká scored late off a set piece and that inaugural match ended 1-1. Mix Diskerud scored for the visitors.

New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo (21) closes in on Orlando City FC midfielder Kaka (10) during the first half of an MLS soccer match. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

MLS celebrity coach Jason Kreis had been recruited by New York City FC technical director Claudio Reyna after guiding Real Salt Lake to a 2009 MLS Cup title and barely losing the 2013 title match in penalty kicks to Sporting KC. Kreis, also the first player in league history to reach the 100-goal plateau, agreed to terms with NYCFC and the City Football Group just two weeks after the emotional defeat.

He subsequently transported his family to Manchester, England, for a six-month sabbatical to observe the first team and academy at sister club Manchester City ahead of his assignment with the nascent MLS side in the Bronx.

After NYCFC failed to qualify for the postseason its inaugural year, Kreis was dismissed and replaced by Patrick Vieira.

“I took a lot of the responsibility for the failures of the team coming together as quickly as we all had wanted to,” Kreis told CBS Sports in his first interview after being released by the club. “But it seemed like I was certainly the only one. I did feel I was a little bit on an island.”

Although time can mend all damages, immediately after the decision Kreis struggled to forgive and forget.

“I got fired,” he said. “Now I’ve been out of the game for some period of time and I don’t know for how long — it might be forever. The risk that I took to come here and build something that I thought would be a long-term venture turned out to be an extremely short-term venture. Myself and my family have had to pay the price for that.”

In July, 2016, Kreis declared his dismissal as “unfair and downright irrational,” on ESPN’s Over The Ball podcast.

Kreis found work in the summer of 2016 after Adrian Heath, his opposite in the historic expansion opening match, was sacked by Orlando City. In his first interview with the Orlando Sentinel as the Lions’ new head coach, Kreis seemed less emotional about his NYCFC exit and ready to move on. 

Now, two years later, he’s fully focused on guiding Orlando City to its first playoff appearance, something that continues to elude the team. Meanwhile, New York City FC qualified for the postseason in each of Vieira’s two seasons.

But Kreis topped Vieira in their first three encounters overlapping the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  Vieira and City have recovered to win the last two matches, including a 3-0 triumph in Orlando last May – NYC’s first road win against the Lions.

“We dominated tonight like the last two games we played against them,” Vieira said after spring, 2017 match.

Kreis took exception to the remark.

“In my opinion, I think that we as coaches need to do a better job in respecting our opponents after performances,” he said.

Vieira provided a rebuttal at training the following week.

“I’m not going to accept the personal attack because I believe the way that he talks I think it was a little bit of anger and a personal attack,” Vieira said. “This is something I will not accept. I will accept everyone’s opinion because I say what I think and people can agree or disagree, but I stay on the field and give an opinion on the game. I think he should do the same and try to control himself a little bit more.”

Apr 23, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira shakes hands with Orlando City SC head coach Jason Kreis after the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Games between the teams have been as fiery as their coaches, and fans have let emotions get out of hand at times.

In week three of 2018, New York City blanked the Lions 2-0. The second match of the season series is scheduled at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. It will be the 11th game in the all-time series, which Orlando City leads 5-3-2.

Ahead of the match, Vieira implied that his relationship with Kreis is not tainted from previous verbal sparring.

“I think we are good and we are always going to be good,” Vieira said. “We are two professional people who need to win football matches because this is our job, and sometimes there is pressure because you want to win.

“But we never crossed the line – it’s all about the respect that I have for him. He won the [MLS] title, and you don’t win it just like that.”

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