Jacksonville Sports Day

PREVIEW: Orlando City Begins 2019 Campaign Against NYCFC

FILE PHOTO

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City SC begins its fifth Major League Soccer (MLS) campaign on Saturday when it hosts NYCFC at Orlando City Stadium.

“We feel as though we’ve had a very positive preseason. We’re encouraged by a number of things. At this stage I think everyone wants Saturday to come so we can go and get started,” Head Coach James O’Connor said.

The Lions enter 2019 with 12 new faces on the roster, highlighted by four-time Premier League Champion and Portuguese international Nani.

Also featured amongst Orlando City’s newcomers are 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele, as well as Orlando natives Homegrown rookie Benji Michel and MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Santiago Patiño.

Joining Nani in the midfield is Ecuadorian international Jhegson Sebastián Méndez. Former Louisville City product Kyle Smith and 2018 MLS SuperDraft No. 1 overall pick João Moutinho look to enhance the backline, along with MLS veteran goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

Among those returning to City for the 2019 season are forwards Dom Dwyer and Chris Mueller, veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan along with Cristian Higuita and center back Lamine Sané.

Orlando City has never lost in its MLS opener, boasting a 1-0-3 record in its four previous contents. Saturday will mark the third time in its five-year history that City will face NYCFC to open the season.

In 2015, the two played to a 1-1 draw with a stoppage time equalizer coming off a free kick from former FIFA World Player of the Year Kaká. Two years later, the Lions celebrated the opening of Orlando City Stadium with a 1-0 defeat over the Pigeons.

The 2015 expansion rivals have split the series throughout their brief history, both totaling five wins over the other with two draws. The Lions hold the advantage in the City Beautiful with a 3-2-1 record.

New York City is led by Head Coach Dome Torrent, who is entering his first full season at the helm.

The Pigeons’ roster is highlighted by newcomer Alexandru Mitrita, along with returners Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina and former University of Central Florida product Sean Johnson.

Saturday is the first of two meetings between the two clubs in 2019, with City traveling to Yankee Stadium on April 27.

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