New York City FC could not have been in a better position to put the game away. City held a two-goal advantage in the 69th minute and league-leading goal-scorer David Villa was about to take a penalty kick.
Just as he took his shot, Villa slipped and booted the ball high over the crossbar and into the Yankee Stadium stands.
The momentum slipped away as well, and Orlando City rallied to score twice in what turned into a devastating 2-2 draw. Kevin Molino scored the equalizer in the fourth minute of stoppage time, heading in Cyle Larin’s header from point-blank range past goalkeeper Josh Saunders. Several NYC FC players fell in disbelief.
“We took another punch,” defender Jason Hernandez said.
The tie stunned City (4-4-6, 18 points), which has won only once at home (1-2-5) this season. “Of course we’re disappointed,” coach Patrick Vieira said. “Just taking one point from that game is unbelievable. We should kill the game, score that third goal, and the game would be finished.”
In one of the most confounding MLS statistics, City has accrued only eight points in eight home games but has earned 10 road points (3-2-1).
Because of its baseball dimensions, the Stadium’s soccer pitch is the smallest in the league (110 X 70 yards), which can inhibit City’s skilled players and attacking style.
Midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who set up both goals, said the team trains on a similar field. “We’re very comfortable on this field,” he said. “We really have no excuse to losing games here, or tying games.”
Villa made no excuses on his PK miss after Seb Himes was called for a hand ball in the penalty area. “I sliced with my left,’’ Villa said. “I tried to shoot strong, and when my left leg stepped on the floor, it slid.
“If I score the penalty, it’s 3-0 and the game’s done.”
After a 7-0 drubbing by the Red Bulls last week, City wanted to show the 25,039 spectators that the result was an aberration. They did that for most of the match, taking a deserved 2-0 lead on Frederic Brillant’s 42nd-minute header and Villa’s 16-yard chip over goalkeeper Joe Bendik in the 66th minute.
But something is missing.
“What we maybe need is to be a little bit more ruthless in the 18-yard box on the offensive and defensive side,” Vieira said.