Miami (AFP) – Cyle Larin’s header in the 15th minute was enough to let Orlando City SC open their new stadium with a 1-0 victory over New York City FC Sunday on Major League Soccer’s opening weekend.
It wasn’t all good news for Orlando, however, as Larin’s header came minutes after Brazilian veteran Kaka limped off with a left hamstring injury.
He was replaced by Giles Barnes, who was acquired from Vancouver for Brek Shea in the off-season and took advantage of his opportunity with a deft cross to set up Larin’s goal.
“We suffered a lot in this game,” Orlando coach Jason Kreis said. “New York had opportunity after opportunity.”
After giving up the early goal, a New York team featuring new additions Maxi Moralez of Argentina, forward Rodney Wallace and goalkeeper Sean Johnson controlled the run of play but saw chance after chance go begging.
Jonathan Spector, the former United States and Birmingham City defender, was effective in his debut for Orlando, which struggled defensively last season.
New York’s European imports David Villa and Andrea Pirlo created several scoring opportunities but were thwarted by Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who finished with seven saves.
Sean Okoli nearly grabbed an equalizer in the 86th minute, but his shot from 25 yards was pushed wide by Bendik as Orlando withstood a last press from New York.
Orlando and New York City both entered the league as expansion clubs in 2015 and played their inaugural game against one another.
Orlando played their first two seasons in the Citrus Bowl stadium built for American football before unveiling their new 25,500 capacity state-of-the-art home that one section of fervent supporters welcomed Sunday with a massive banner dubbing it “A Gift from the Gods”.
In a first for MLS the venue features a specially designed “safe standing” terrace for fans who prefer to be on their feet and an area where smoke cannisters can be set off.
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