Orlando City SC play to 1-1 draw in MLS debut


Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Kaká scored Orlando City SC’s first goal as an MLS franchise to give the Lions a 1-1 draw against New York City FC.

ORLANDO — Kaká scored off a deflection during stoppage time to help Orlando City SC play to a 1-1 draw against New York City FC in the first regular season MLS game played in Florida in over 13 years on Sunday in front of a crowd of 62,510 at the Citrus Bowl.

Orlando City came out on the offensive to start their MLS campaign, getting off 6 shot during the opening 45 minutes compared to NYCFC’s 3. Both teams stayed scoreless throughout the first half, while New York held possession slightly longer than Orlando.

“I think we just need to work out the kinks,” said Orlando City’s Brek Shea after the game. “Obviously this is our first real game as a team and obviously I think they’re a little disappointed but at the same time we’re really excited with what we saw.”

NYCFC opened up the scoring when Mix Diskerud curled a shot past Donovan Ricketts to take a 1-0 lead over Orlando City.

Kaká scored the equalizer when his free kick deflected off New York defender Jeb Brovsky and into the back of the net during stoppage time, marking Orlando CIty’s first-ever goal as an MLS franchise.

“It was amazing,” said Kaká following his MLS debut. “I really wanted to score the first goal of this team in the league.”

The goal by Kaká saved Orlando from having to suffer a defeat in front of the second largest crowd for an MLS debut. And gave the Lions a crucial point in the standings to start the season.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the final score because I think it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t taken something out of the game,” said Orlando City manager Adrian Heath after the game. “I’m extremely proud of them, everybody connected well on the football club today.”

The matchup between Villa and Kaká marked only the third time in MLS history that two FIFA World Cup winners have played against each other, while also being the first time in league history that two expansion franchises have faced each other in their first-ever MLS match.

Shea went down in Orlando City SC history as the first player in the franchise to receive a yellow card as he was booked for “diving” in the 29th minute. Veteran defender Aurélien Collin was the first Lion player to be sent off when he received a straight red card in the 83rd minute for a harsh tackle on David Villa.

The 1-1 draw also marked the first MLS regular season game played in the state of Florida since Oct. 10, 2001, when the Miami Fusion played in the MLS Cup quarterfinals.

Orlando City’s 62,510 attendance number also marks the largest crowd to watch a soccer game in the Citrus Bowl, surpassing attendance numbers from the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

“Absolutely incredible,” said Heath about the game’s atmosphere. “It was something to see before the game when we came out and that’s something I’ll remember for an awful long time.”

Now Orlando will head to Texas for their first MLS road game as they take on the Houston Dynamo on Friday, March 13 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Lions return home on Saturday, March 21 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.