ORLANDO – Kaka’s stoppage-time heroics made sure Orlando City SC’s Citrus Bowl party wasn’t spoiled by New York City FC in the season opener Sunday evening between MLS’ two new sides.
The Brazilian Designated Player scored on a deflected free kick in the first minute of added time to give Orlando an unlikely share of the spoils with a 1-1 draw after they were cut down to 10 men and trailed following an earlier goal from NYCFC’s Mix Diskerud.
Jason Kreis’ team had stolen in front against the run of play in the 76th minute when Diskerud, the returning US international midfielder, threaded a sublime 18-yard effort into the bottom right corner of Donovan Ricketts’ goal following a corner move.
But, seemingly as if on an opening day script, the Lions’ international superstar found an answer, stepping up with a 20-yard free-kick that burrowed into the net after taking a deflection off defender Jeb Brovsky and leaving goalkeeper Josh Saunders wrong-footed, sending the sell-out crowd of more than 62,000 into a frenzy.
It was a stunning finish to an absorbing, at times nervy, contest between the two expansion teams, which only fully came to life in the final stages, first with Diskerud’s goal and then Aurelien Collin being sent off for a studs-up challenge on Spanish ace David Villa.
Orlando head coach Adrian Heath sprung a surprise with his starting lineup, inserting Colombian Designated Player Carlos Rivas up front instead of expected starter Bryan Rochez, who was left on the bench, while Seb Hines was preferred to Sean St. Ledger alongside Collin at the back.
Rivas showed plenty of energy in the first half, linking well with Kaka and Kevin Molino, and Saunders was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.
The first 20 minutes proved a cagey and rather nervous opening from both teams, with even the usually sure touch of Kaka seeming to let him down in the early going as passes went astray and first touches showed more than a hint of first-night nerves.
Neither ‘keeper was called into action until the 14th minute when Saunders stretched at the far post to collect a looping free-kick and was pushed back into the post by Hines. Saunders lost the ball as the back of his head hit the woodwork, and he needed several minutes’ treatment for his unfortunate collision.
Kaka did finally find his range with a 25th-minute effort that called Saunders into genuine action, and Rivas then linked up with Rafael Ramos to uncork a strong 20-yard effort that took a dangerous deflection just wide.
As New York found it increasingly difficult to break out of their half, a quick-passing move between Rivas, Kaka and Molino ended with Kaka stinging Saunders’ hands from 20 yards, while Rivas then had a good look from an acute angle but shot too high on the stroke of halftime.
Heath will be worried that Brek Shea, Molino and Christian Higuita were all booked for diving, and he will now be without Collin for their next game on Friday at Houston. New York City return home for their opener at Yankee Stadium, next Sunday against the New England Revolution.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Josh Saunders||Just two saves, but they were big ones, also showed guts, coming out of this one literally bloodied and bruised|
|2||Carlos Rivas||All kinds of dangerous going forward, will be scary when he figures out how to stay onside|
|3||Kaka||The home team's hero also had a very good night running the attack|