Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City SC vs New York City FC
Venue: Orlando Citrus Bowl – Sunday, March 8 – 16:00 ET (21:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 3)
Match Odds: Orlando 23/20 – Draw 9/4 – New York City 12/5
Orlando City and New York City FC will make their highly anticipated debuts as Major League Soccer franchises when they face each other at the Citrus Bowl in Florida on Sunday night in the first of three big games to round off the opening weekend.
An enormous crowd in excess of 62,000 are expected to be at the game and Orlando will be hoping that the home advantage will see them win their first ever regular season game as an MLS club.
New York City will obviously be aiming for the same thing and will take confidence from the fact that they are coached by former Real Salt Lake head coach, Jason Kreis, who has more experience in MLS than his Orlando counterpart, Adrian Heath.Embed from Getty Images
Most of the focus will be on each sides’ Designated Player superstars in the shape of Kaka for Orlando and David Villa for New York City and both will need to show their experience and lead by example as both players will captain their teams.
These two met in a preseason friendly in Charleston two weeks ago and played out an entertaining 1-1 draw, with the goals coming from Kaka and NYCFC rookie Khiry Shelton.
The Brazilian playmaker was allowed too much space on that day and Kreis will be desperately trying to ensure his players close down the former Ballon d’Or winner on Sunday.
David Villa was effective in that friendly too and Orlando need to hope that their experienced centre-back duo of Aurelien Collin and Sean St Ledger can deal with the Spaniard.
It should be an open, entertaining game and both sides will be looking to get off to a flying start as they kick off their inaugural seasons in fine style.
Orlando City will be without goalkeeper Tally Hall (torn ACL) so Donovan Ricketts will start the season between the sticks. Northern Irish striker Martin Paterson (groin) is also out so DP forward Bryan Rochez will get the nod in attack. Brek Shea is expected to start at left-back for the Lions.
New York City have no injury concerns ahead of their opener and are likely to lineup with two strikers in the shape of David Villa and Adam Nemec. Mix Diskerud should play while the MLS experience of Ned Grabavoy will steady the NYCFC ship in midfield.
Orlando City’s form: N/A
New York City’s form: N/A
Key Stat: Only two of the last six MLS Expansion franchises have won their opening match of their inaugural season (Seattle Sounders 2009 and Vancouver Whitecaps 2011).
Key Player: Kaka – The 62,000 fans in attendance will be expecting big things from their team but mainly Kaka. The Brazilian has already scored against NYCFC and will look to make a real statement in his MLS debut.
Orlando City 2-1 New York City FC – The home advantage could be a key factor in this one and that should give Orlando the edge in what should be a really entertaining game between two sides looking to start life in MLS with a bang.