New York City FC kicked off Season 5 with a point on the road at Orlando City SC on Saturday afternoon.
Here’s Five Points from the 2-2 tie in the Sunshine State…
Something to Build On
It was a dream opening to this first 90’ of the 24th MLS season for the Boys in Blue.
Ebenezer Ofori scored a beauty with the team’s first shot of the campaign before Alex Ring doubled the advantage on the stroke of halftime to put Dome Torrent’s men in charge at the interval.
It was all going so well until two unanswered goals after the break turned three points into one, meaning the teams had to be satisfied with share of the spoils from this season-opener.
Was it a point gained or two dropped? For NYCFC’s new captain, it was the latter: “Probably, if you lead 2-0, it feels more like a defeat at this point to me” said The Ringleader in his post-match.
However, as Torrent noted after the game, if you can’t win on the road on the day, don’t lose – City showed resilience after the long trip south and had plenty of looks on goal, so will have plenty of positives to build on for the Home Opener in the Bronx next time out.
Alexandru Mitriță made his long-awaited debut for NYCFC in Florida and he certainly lived up to the billing, providing several eye-catching moves through the 90’.
The Romanian’s best moment came in the last minute of the half, with his beautifully-judged outside-of-the-foot through ball finding Ring for the second goal.
On another day, the team’s newest DP could’ve marked his bow by writing his name on the scoresheet but he provided numerous exciting moments, like when he threaded another inch-perfect ball to give Moralez the freedom of the Orlando half in the second period.
On top of his tight control and clever movement, the joint-Heineken Man of the Match (with Ring) also showed that he can deliver dangerous set-pieces which could be another important weapon for NYCFC in 2019.
Alex won’t match the goals-per-game ratio enjoyed by the previous captain of NYCFC, but he’s one-for-one in 2019 after netting the second strike vs. Orlando.
It was a finish David Villa would have been proud of, too: an instinctive touch and finessed shot from Mitri’s stunning through ball for his third goal in City blue.
In Ring’s previous two seasons, seeing him break into the penalty box as the team’s most advanced player was a rare sight, but Torrent fielded Alex in a more attacking role for the first game of this new campaign.
Considering he’s also played in defense for Dome, it’s fair to say that the former Finland international has proven himself to be one of the most versatile players in this squad which is an important asset for a Head Coach who values tactical flexibility more than most.
Ofori The City
“New year, new me” as Eben put it in his post-game interview.
The only player generally ahead of Ring in the NYCFC midfield three in Orlando was Ofori, who scored his second goal for the Club with the first shot of the season.
Ofori is another piece of this squad which has been used in different roles, often as the midfield anchor, once or twice on the flanks and even occasionally as a left full-back.
The Ghanaian has returned for a second loan spell from Stuttgart and if he has more shots like his goal in his locker, perhaps we can get used to seeing him more in the attacking third through 2019.
Per James Sands: “He does that a ton at training. It’s not new to any of us. I think we will see it more in games.”
Enter the SandsMan
The average age of the squad has fallen again in the offseason with a host of young, talented players joining the cause, but it was one who was already here who grabbed the attention when the lineups were released an hour before kickoff.
The Club’s first-ever Homegrown Player James Sands earned his fourth MLS start after impressing on preseason and put in a solid shift in front of the back four, completing all 18 of his passes and making three tackles over his 88’ appearance.
With three Homegrown starlets now on the roster, it’s an exciting time as we see the first crop of Club-developed players take their first steps in the pro game.
Sands was impressive vs. D.C. United in the final stretch of 2018 and he’ll now be hoping to retain his place vs. the same opposition in next Sunday’s Home Opener at Yankee Stadium.