Efficient NYCFC, unlucky Orlando experience contrasting fortunes in 2018

NEW YORK — Jason Kreis has coached both teams, and they both entered Major League Soccer at the same time.

But the similarities between New York City FC and Orlando City SC in 2018 end there.

Both teams were without first-choice players for their meeting on Saturday: Orlando without forwards Dom Dwyer and Stefano Pinho and midfielder Oriol Rosell to injury and PC to suspension, and NYCFC missed starters David Villa and Anton Tinnerholm, who failed late fitness tests.

But it was NYCFC who showed their depth, took their chances and came away with a 2-0 win at Yankee Stadium.

It didn’t start out that way, though, for the home side. They had 63.3 percent of possession, but created few scoring chances and the 0-0 scoreline at the half suited the visitors.

However, NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira lauded his team’s maturity after halftime to not get frustrated and continue to seek the goal. It came on the first of two defensive blunders by Orlando City in their defensive third.

“It was really difficult, and it was difficult for us to find the space to play and to express ourselves,” Vieira said. “That’s why this game makes me more happy than the other two games we played so far, because this one we keep our organization, our discipline on the field and we waited for the right time. When they make their mistake, we take our chances.”

Justin Meram duels with Alex Ring | USA Today Sports Images

NYCFC are off to the first 3-0-0 start in the club’s brief history, while Orlando, now 0-2-1, are being harshly punished for mistakes.

“Unfortunately for me, I think that’s three matches where I just feel like we’re giving things away,” Kreis said. “In the first match [vs. D.C. United], we give away a goal off defending a throw-in in our own end and we end up with an ejection that was a poor decision. The second game [vs. Minnesota], it was the same thing with giving away a cheap goal, and this game we smash the ball at our goalkeeper and give away the first goal.”

Another positive, and difference, for NYCFC from last year is the solidity of their defense. It was a point of emphasis in the offseason for Vieira and the club has now conceded just once in three games. Orlando’s best chances came when Justin Meram rolled a low drive wide of the far post and Will Johnson lashed a shot off the crossbar.

“The reaction from when a ball turns over, or the reaction when a guy is out of position, it’s all about fighting for the next man and having each other’s backs,” NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “That’s what has really propelled us to a really fantastic defensive start and getting three wins in three games.”

The biggest difference between the 2015 expansion brethren, although it’s just three games into the season, is in the standings. NYCFC sit atop the Eastern Conference with maximum points from their three games, while Orlando City are last with just one point in their three games.

There are still 31 more matches to play over the course of seven months, but the Lions are already feeling the heat.

“We have pressure on ourselves already, we had pressure since Day 1,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said after making his OCSC debut. “I think all the guys on our team know that we built this team to be a ‘win now’ type of team this season and we can’t wait too long to get things kick-started before we put ourselves in too deep of a hole. The pressure is on and we know it.”