Ebenezer Ofori scored NYCFC’s first goal. (Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO — What started out as a promising day for New York City, ended up as a disaster in the team’s season opener.
City squandered a two-goal lead in the second half and wound up settling for a 2-2 draw with Orlando City at Orlando City Stadium.
Second-half goals by Chris Mueller and Tesho Akindele allowed the hosts to rally than suffer the embarrassment of getting shut out in its home opener.
On the flip side, NYCFC players must have had their collective heads down as they left the field, allowing two road points to fly out the window.
First-half goals by midfielders Ebenezer Ofori and Alex Ring boosted NYCFC as the visitors weathered the early storm. The host side had more scoring opportunities than NYCFC, but could not convert, whether it was goalkeeper Sean Johnson made a save or Orlando shooting off target.
NYCFC struck in the 13th minute as Ofori powered a left-footed shot off the left post and into the goal past a diving goalkeeper, Brian Rowe.
The visitors doubled their lead in the 45th minute as Ring latched onto a through ball from newcomer Alexandru Mitrita. Racing in a lone on Rowe, Ring calmly finished as he equalized his goal production from 2018.
Orlando pulled one back in the 59th minute as Mueller whacked a free kick from the left side that bounced once in the penalty area and past the outstretched Johnson on the right side.
Maxi Moralez could have put the game away for NYCFC on a counterattack in the 70th minute, but Rowe saved his attempt.
That sequence came back to haunt NYCFC as Orlando equalized in the 75th minute. Dom Dwyer latched onto a Tesho Akindele pass and motored down the left wing before slotting a pass to an open Nani, who had an easy tap-in for a 2-2 deadlock.
NYCFC dodged a bullet in the 82nd minute when referee Baldomero Toledo ruled no handball on center back Maxime Chanot off Dwyer’s header in the penalty area. Toledo used VAR to make his decision.
In second-half stoppage, Rowe denied Mitrita from close-range to preserve the draw.
Midfielders James Sands and Jonathan Lewis were given their first starts of the season by NYCFC head coach Domenec Torrent.
City will host D.C. United in its home opener at Yankee Stadium Sunday, March 10.