After two years of speculation, buildup, and excitement, it’s finally game day for New York City Football Club. The MLS expansion side take on another new team to the league, Orlando City SC, in each teams inaugural game.
The two teams go head to head in Orlando at 5 PM ET. The game can be seen live on ESPN2.
Key Player: David Villa, Forward
NYCFC’s first player and captain will ultimately be the key to victory for them today. Villa, coming off a title-winning season for Atletico Madrid in La Liga, brings experience, talent, and a veteran savvy to City’s attack, and is expected to be the teams talisman going forward.
Villa has won the World Cup with Spain, along with almost every club award imaginable with FC Barcelona, including the 2011 UEFA Champions League. He’s been competing against the highest quality of talent for his entire career, which definitely bodes well for the future. Against an Orlando City back line that is anything but stable, Villa should be on the scoresheet when 90 minutes are up.
Key Matchup: Andrew Jacobson, CDM v.s. Kaka, CAM
There’s likely no player more talented or dangerous in the MLS than Orlando City’s Kaka. The former Real Madrid and AC Milan star is an uber creative attacking midfielder who can create chances at will, and finish them off as well. He is the focal point of Orlando’s attack; the entire team will rotate and revolve around their Brazilian maestro. This is why defensive midfielder Andrew Jacobson will be so key.
The former FC Dallas man will be playing in the “Kyle Beckerman” role, which is the holding midfielder in head coach Jason Kreis’s 4-4-2 diamond formation. NYCFC will likely play with a narrow diamond, which should give Jacobson more support in protecting City’s back 4, but ultimately, it will be the matchup of Jacobson and Kaka that will likely determine the match. If Jacobson contains Kaka, expect City to dominate possession and spring the occasional counter.
Burning Question: How composed will each defense be?
If offense is each team’s strength, defense is their weakness. Villa, Kaka, Mix Diskerud, and Brek Shea are all among the many offensive talents each team possesses, but defense might be a question mark. Orlando has experienced shot stopper Donovan Ricketts at goal, while City will likely boast Josh Saunders between the posts.
Both will likely be tested early and often as the defenses try and organize. Remember, each team is in their first season; players are still learning each others tendencies, which is why defensive composure will continue to be a question mark as the season progresses.
Prediction: Expect some goals in this match. The game will be free flowing and full of counterattacks and breaks. Kaka and Villa will both score to start their MLS careers. Orlando City will get the better chances than City, but a strong performance from Josh Saunders preserves a point for the visitors.
Prediction: Orlando City 1, NYCFC 1