The first time NYCFC and Orlando City SC met, NYCFC’s hope for their first franchise win in the season opener were dashed in the 90th minute when Kaka’s free kick bounced off defender Jeb Brovsky and rolled past goalkeeper Josh Saunders. Instead of that first win, the match ended in a 1-1- draw.
Although New York City FC earned their first win a week later in their home opener in the Bronx, much has changed since then, and much has changed throughout the four months since these two teams met.
With both teams fighting for their playoff futures on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), New York City (5-9-6; 21 points) knows that a “mere” three points at home against OCSC (6-8-6; 24 points) can go a long way in determining if they can make the playoffs in their inaugural season or be a first-year dud in the Big Apple.
“You get to a point in the season where you recognize you’re on the back half of it,” head coach Jason Kreis mentioned. “We certainly have no reason to feel we’re out of anything. We feel we’re right on the edge. We look at this game as a repeat of last week. I said to the players ahead of that match (at New England) we’re just three points out (of a playoff spot) and we have an opponent who is very hungry and if we get those thee points, we can put ourselves in front of them.”
Putting themselves in front of anyone has been a daunting task for the Blues in the first half of the season. Despite losing just one game in the first month of the season, NYCFC has come close to breaking into the top six of the playoffs just once in late June, when the Red Bulls sat at the sixth and final playoff spot and all the Blues needed to do was win against their rivals.
Mostly everyone knows the rest of that story – NYCFC scores the opening goal in the sixth minute, the Red Bulls strike twice early in the second half and once more to solidify NYC’s 3-1 loss. Since that loss, NYCFC has only won one of their last three matches (2-1 at Montreal on July 4th).
“If we can get this result and have a strong performance we can really put ourselves in a good place,” Kreis added.
Despite the additions of Andoni Iraola and Angelino to the Starting XI, NYC hasn’t been able to continue their momentum from their four-match undefeated streak in late May through June.
The other new additions could see playing time on Sunday – Andrea Pirlo and Jefferson Mena are reported to be active and had a solid week of training leading up to Sunday’s pivotal match.
With the injuries to the backline, Mena could start alongside Shay Facey in the center back position. Pirlo, on the other hand, isn’t expected to start.
(It’s worth noting that Angelino wasn’t expected to play against Toronto FC on July 12, but came on, so anything is possible with Kreis.)
“It feels like it’s a little bit of a second season for us,” Kreis said of the changes to the roster. “It’s very exciting.
“With the additions of the players we’re making right now, we feel that can be the tipping point that pushes us where we want to be.”
According to MLS Soccer Frank Lampard remains out of action due to his lingering calf injury. Lampard has yet to play since arriving officially to New York City on July 1.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud, who was with the USMNT during the Gold Cup could also play Sunday since he didn’t play in the Americans’ loss to Panama in the third-place match Saturday.
NYCFC is going to hope the new guys can help them take advantage of an Orlando City team that is limping into Sunday’s match. The Lions have lost back-to-back games going into Sunday, being shut out 2-0 twice to FC Dallas and the Red Bulls. In their last five matches, OCSC won just once while losing three, getting outscored 9-1 during the stretch.
Their only goal in their last five matches came in 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake three weeks ago.
“We still have a long way to go in the season,” Pirlo said at his introductory press conference on Thursday. “We have a new team, a team that started from scratch this year. We have to turn a new leaf and try to do our best to reach the playoffs.”