Yet another matchup between MLS expansion siblings went the way of the one that’s never made the playoffs. On a surprisingly bright Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, Cyle Larin struck on either side of halftime as Orlando City outclassed hometown NYCFC 2-0.
For Larin, it meant nine goals in seven total games against New York City. For his team, it meant at least a week atop the Eastern Conference standings despite the continued absence of Brazilian star man Kaká.
“We’re the only ones to blame,” NYC gaffer Patrick Vieira said after the match. “We lost today not because they were better, but it was because we didn’t take our chances and we didn’t defend well.”
With first-choice fullback Ronald Matarrita out with a high ankle sprain, Vieira slid back wingman Rodney Wallace to pick up the slack, opting for Tommy McNamara in Wallace’s usual role on the left side of New York City’s front three. Just past the half hour, Wallace displayed some real rust playing a more defensive role, allowing Orlando City’s buildup to utterly pass him by and open the scoring off Larin’s right foot.
“Of course as a winger he gives you a lot, and defensively as a left back it’s not his favorite position,” Vieira said of Wallace.
It was a deflating moment for the hosts, who seven minutes earlier nearly struck off a diving Maxi Moralez header, immediately followed by an Ethan White cross that narrowly missed a dangerous connection with McNamara in the danger zone.
Indeed, on the day, NYCFC would perfect the Art of Almost.
Moments after Larin logged his second off a gorgeous, sure-footed pass-and-move in the 51st minute, DP midfielder Andrea Pirlo was subbed off for a teenager, Yangel Herrera. It marked the fourth straight game in which Pirlo has been substituted for a more aggressive presence.
Though he’s started all seven games for NYCFC in 2017, il Maestro hasn’t played a full ninety since March 18th vs. Montreal. After yet another run-out in which he struggled to put his stamp on the proceedings, Vieira yet again came to the defense of the Italian legend.
“I think when Andrea is on the field our game is more fluid and we create more chances. Yes, I make a change because I want something different, like all the other games, and it could Andrea out or it could be somebody else out.”
Hope came for the Bronx Blues in the form of a 73rd minute answer from David Villa, who flung it past the impressive Joe Bendik from a tight angle.
The supporters were energized in the moment, but the fightback never came to fruition for New York City. The late addition of attacking man Miguel Camargo and an overall increase in pressure weren’t enough to steal a point. As the final whistle blew, the home team suddenly found itself with as many losses as wins in 2017.
To date, NYCFC has just one win to speak of in eight total meetings with Orlando City.
UP NEXT FOR NEW YORK CITY: A trip to Columbus to take on the Crew on Saturday, April 29th at 7:30pm ET.