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Orlando City coach, players agree Yankee Stadium not an ideal pitch

Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) takes a corner kick against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

BRONX, N.Y. — The playing surface at Yankee Stadium has been a hot topic around MLS for a while, and star winger Nani experienced it for the first time during Orlando City’s 1-1 draw with New York City FC.

“To tell the truth, it was not the best field I’ve played in my life,” Nani said. “It was very windy, and the pitch was dry. I was a little bit confused, the position of the pitch. But this is not an excuse, because we played with the ball.”

“We did well in the first half. We created our chances. We could score. … We had the opportunity to get the lead. But at the end, one point, if we think about it is not so bad. We must continue to work hard.”

NYCFC is 1-0-4 (7 points) at home so far this season.

“You feel for [NYCFC coach] Domènec [Torrent], you know, as the coach, if that’s the field you’ve got to play on every week,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said. “You feel for him and the staff and for the players. It’s a difficult field for them to have to go and play on. A lot of people have expressed their view, and everyone knows the situation, but having experienced it, it’s definitely a difficult arena and a difficult field.”

Orlando City completed 65.4 percent of its 327 passes at Yankee Stadium.

“I mean, you can play soccer on it,” goalkeeper Brian Rowe said.

“It’s not the best to really move the ball and conducive to a pretty style of soccer on it. But some games, you know, you just got to dig down and you know what you’re going to get, and I think we did well battling, given the conditions.”

High praise for Rowe

O’Connor heaped praise on his starting goalkeeper after Saturday’s match. Rowe had four saves, including a stop on a one-on-one with NYCFC striker Héber in the 25th minute of Saturday’s match.

“The great thing for us with Brian, not just from a technical standpoint, I think character, leadership and I think a lot of things that maybe supporters don’t get to see. He’s a standout guy,” O’Connor said of Rowe. “He’s the type of guy that comes in, works really hard, trains very well, encourages his teammates, has good leadership.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into his play that a lot of people don’t see, as well. He’s a really smashing guy.”

Pirlo returns

Italian great Andrea Pirlo returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour.

Pirlo, who played with A.C. Milan and Juventus before wrapping up his career with NYCFC, is a two-times UEFA Champions League champion.

Pirlo said he’s happy in retirement. He said he doesn’t get to watch MLS too often, but when he gets the chance, he watches NYCFC.

“I don’t miss [playing],” he said. “I’m happy. I have time to stay with my family. I work sometimes with Italian TV, with Heineken, with some sponsors. I’m very happy.”

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