"Fragile" NYCFC can't overcome sluggish first half in loss to Orlando City

ORLANDO, Fla. – Intermittent downpours were not enough to cool down the Heineken Rivalry Week matchup between last year’s expansion teams New York City FC and Orlando City.

NYCFC leaves Florida with no points to show for a hard-fought game that was dominated for long stretches by Orlando City, as the home team won 2-1 on two goals from Kaká.

Despite the loss, NYCFC are still in a tight race for the top of the Eastern Conference, just two points behind Toronto FC.  But NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said his team is still a long way from its first postseason appearance.

“When you look at how the league is tight; we are not guaranteed for the playoff at all. It will be really difficult for us.” Vieira said. “If the team want to qualify, they will have to play better than they did tonight.”

Orlando City dominated most of the possession in the first half, seeing NYCFC go into the locker room a goal down. After the break, NYCFC looked spirited and tied the game on a Steven Mendoza goal, as the forward took a rebound off an Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik save and placed a shot into the top corner.

Despite leveling, NYCFC was unable to take full advantage of the change in momentum. Vieira spoke of his team’s lack of sustained offensive production and a lack of mobility up front.

Orlando took the lead in the 63rd minute after Kaká drew and converted a penalty.

NYCFC defender Ronald Matarrita kept his team in the hunt with two heroic saves on Orlando counterattacks. First with a sliding effort on Orlando’s Kevin Molino on the goal line and second against a streaking Cyle Larin.

“We knew it would be a difficult game,” Vieira said. “What disappointed me was how we used the ball, I think we didn’t play our normal game. We looked a bit fragile in the first half. We can’t win if we play the way we did, especially in the first half.”

NYCFC will hope to put their Rivalry Week loss behind them as they continue their push towards the top of the Eastern Conference this Thursday as they host D.C. United (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE).