NYCFC Goals: Ofori 13', Ring 45'
Orlando Goals: Mueller 59', Akindele 75'
It was a game of two halves for New York City FC in the MLS season opener on the road at Orlando City SC.
The Boys in Blue were up 2-0 at the half thanks to goals from Ebenezer Ofori and Alex Ring but two second half goals from the hosts meant that the game was tied at two apiece.
As it was in Season 1, NYCFC kicked off Season 5 at Orlando City.
Beginning the campaign in the Sunshine State, Dome Torrent handed a debut to new DP Alexandru Mitriță and started 18-year old James Sands as the Boys in Blue looked to commence with a road win.
Will Johnson threatened with the first effort on goal with 5’ on the clock with a skidding effort which whistled wide of Sean Johnson’s goal but it was NYC who took the lead with their first shot of the season.
Ebenezer Ofori was the man who got it, lining up an unstoppable strike which kissed the inside of the post on its way into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Alex Ring was next to go close with a curling shot on 29’ that forced Brian Rowe into a solid save and Maxime Chanot also narrowly missed with a header from a Mitriță corner which landed just the wrong side of the far post.
Torrent’s men finally did double their advantage on the stroke of half-time and it was a goal of the highest quality.
New captain Ring provided the cool finish off a one-on-one vs. Rowe but it was Mitriță who made it, delivering a devastating through ball which took out multiple Orlando defenders and left his skipper in the clear.
2-0 up at the interval, NYCFC could reflect on a job half-done, but they signposted their intent to keep pushing for more goals a few minutes into the second period when Ring couldn’t quite keep his volley under the crossbar after good work from Jonathan Lewis down the right.
Orlando had enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession up to this point but it was New York who looked the more dangerous in the final third – that was until 59’ when the deficit was reduced by Chris Mueller off a set-piece.
Johnson had no chance as a free-kick from the Orlando left flank went all the way through and nestled into the far corner to make it 2-1 in NYC’s favor.
The pattern of the game remained the same with NYCFC looking dangerous on the break, especially on 70’ when the influential Mitriță played Maxi Moralez through with another exceptional through ball but this time Rowe was there to stand up and block Maxi’s shot.
However, The Lions hit back on 75’ through Tesho Akindele who leveled things up from close range.
Substitute Luis Nani freed Dom Dwyer down the left and the English forward squared for the unmarked Akindele to tap home and make it 2-2.
A penalty appeal for an alleged Chanot handball followed quickly but the appeals were waved away on video review, while at the other end, Mitriță was denied by Rowe in the last minute of additional time after he did well to slalom through on goal from the left.
Despite some late pressure from NYC, the referee blew the final whistle on a 2-2 opening day draw.
Man of the Match
The Romanian international gave a hugely impressive performance on his MLS debut, assisting the second NYCFC goal and showing some great touches throughout the 90'.
Mitrita could've won it in the final minute of stoppage-time too, if not for a good save from Rowe.
NYCFC's Home Opener takes place on Sunday March 10 with Wayne Rooney's D.C. United visiting Yankee Stadium. Get your tickets below...