Jesus Medina celebrates his goal. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO – A nightmare start has New York City FC on the verge of exiting the MLS Is Back Tournament in the group stage.
NYCFC conceded two goals in the opening 10 minutes and faced an uphill battle the rest of the way against Orlando City SC en route to a 3-1 loss at ESPN’s Wide World of Sport on Wednesday night.
The fourth loss in as many matches this season left NYCFC (0-2) in last place in Group A and needing a win in its final group game and a probably a miracle to reach the knockout round. The top two teams from each group advance, plus the four best third-place sides. Orlando improved to 2-0.
Chris Mueller, who tallied in Orlando City’s opening 2-1 win over Inter Miami CF last week, struck twice early on to boost the Florida side.
City entered the match with less than a full lineup. Star midfielder Maxi Moralez was sidelined with a quad injury while defender Sebastien Ibeagha joined him with a calf problem. Gedion Zelalem picked up a knock in the 1-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union, also was out. Midfielder Alexandru Mitriță, who didn’t dress for the opener, started the match on the bench.
Mueller made quick work of NYCFC. He sent Orlando into the lead in the fourth minute, stabbing João Moutinho’s free kick and beat goalkeeper Sean Johnson from 15 yards.
Only six minutes later, he took a head cross from Dom Dwyer and connecting from four yards on the right side.
In the first 15 minutes of the match, NYCFC allowed Orlando to dominate the match and stretch out its team and backline and playing as though it never learned from its earlier mistakes.
NYCFC finally found itself and managed to sliced the deficit in half in the 38th minute. Heber fed Jesus Medina, who led the ball bounce one before he sent a n 18-yard blast into the net. It was the first goal by NYCFC after three consecutive 1-0 defeats to open the season.
Within seconds during the 77th minute, Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese twice denied NYCFC the equalizer, stretching to knock away shots by Keaton Parks (outside of the area) and Valentín Castellanos (middle of the box).
Orlando City finished off NYCFC with its third goal in the 81st minute. Nani found Michel, who trapped the ball and fired a shot that was blocked by Johnson. The rebound, however, went to Tesho Akindele on the right side and he had an easy header for the insurance tally.
Two minutes into 10 minutes of stoppage time, Mitrita almost gave City its second goal when he smashed a long-range shot off the crossbar.