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Orlando City pushes to overcome Yankee Stadium woes, earn road win over improving NYCFC

Orlando City star Nani, right, controls the ball in front of NYCFC midfielder James Sands. The two teams played to a 2-2 draw earlier this season at Orlando City Stadium. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City coach James O’Connor won’t utilize too many lessons from Orlando City’s season opener against New York City FC when the two teams meet again this weekend.

The Lions and NYCFC met on March 2 in Orlando City Stadium and played to a 2-2 draw. It was the first of a six-match winless run for NYCFC, though the Pigeons have recently turned their fortunes around with back-to-back wins. Orlando City was a different side at the start of March — the Lions hadn’t yet brought in Swedish centerback Robin Jansson and he’s been a starter since he became available for selection five matches ago.

Plus, that season opener was played in a soccer stadium. Orlando City (3-3-2, 11 points) takes on NYCFC (2-1-5, 11 points) at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Yankee Stadium – a baseball venue.  Earlier this month, Montreal Impact coach Remi Garde called the pitch at Yankee Stadium “dangerous” after the Impact drew 0-0 with the Pigeons.

Orlando City hasn’t scored a goal in Yankee Stadium since 2017.

“The lesson, really, I suppose… we’ve played them in preseason, we played them in the first game of the season, I think where it becomes totally different is the arena and the field. The games we’ve played have been on a much bigger field,” O’Connor said. “We’re now going to go into an arena which is a lot tighter and a lot harder, so it’ll change the game somewhat. So, we need to make sure we understand that.”

O’Connor also noted NYCFC has switched formations multiple times since the season opener. The Lions are looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

“The biggest thing for us going into this game against New York is trying to get the level of performance that we all believe that we’ve had,” O’Connor said. “I would say, for the most part, we’ve been really pleased with performances. I think some results haven’t gone the way we’ve wanted. You know, I think that’s probably the biggest thing for us. I think to maintain the level of performance that gets you the result becomes really important.”

NYCFC is playing in Saturday’s match on short rest. New York City beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Wednesday.

Forward Chris Mueller said the Lions are still improving early in the season. He added the team showed perseverance and built confidence last week during its 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“We’ve got to continue to believe in ourselves,” he said.

“Believe in ourselves as a team and in our identity, especially when we’re going out on the road. We’ve got to go in committed to doing whatever we need to do to get the result, right? Just getting down to it and knowing that we’ve just got to stay true to ourselves and continue to work hard and the results will start to fall.”

Defensively, Orlando City is looking to build off its second clean sheet of the season.

“Going into New York, I mean obviously, we want to make sure that we have a good, solid foundation to be able to play from,” O’Connor said. “I think that’s the biggest thing going into an away game. You want to make sure that you make it hard for the opponent. And then, equally, our chance creation, hopefully it can stay high and we can cause New York some problems.”

Scouting Report

Orlando City at New York City FC, 1

Where: Yankee Stadium

Watch: WRBW-65, Youtube TV (Orlando only), ESPN+

The Buzz: Orlando City (3-3-2, 11 points) is hoping to string together wins for the first time under head coach James O’Connor. … Centerback Alex De John (hamstring) and defensive midfielder/centerback Carlos Ascues are questionable for the match, though Ascues was training with the team this week and De John was not. … NYCFC is coming off a Wednesday victory over the Chicago Fire. … Star NYCFC designated player Alexandru Mitrita is questionable with an ankle injury. … Defender Ronald Matarrita (calf injury) is out. … Orlando City is led by Portuguese star Nani, who has four goals and four assists so far this season. … He’s scored at least one goal in each of the last three matches. … Striker Dom Dwyer is second on the team with three goals, though he’s gone three matches without a goal. … NYCFC has four players who have scored two goals apiece. 

 

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