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NYCFC falls to Orlando City, putting MLS is Back Tournament campaign in jeopardy

Chris Mueller #9 of Orlando City SC scores

Chris Mueller #9 of Orlando City SC scores a goal during a Group A match against New York City FC as part of MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on July 14, 2020 in Reunion, Florida. Credit: Getty Images/Mark Brown

Four matches into its 2020 league campaign, and two matches into the MLS is Back Tournament, New York City FC finally put a ball in back of the net Tuesday.

Orlando City SC, however, scored three of its own, handing NYCFC its second loss in Group A play at MLS’ return to competition and putting a club with visions of an early-season trophy in jeopardy of an early exit.

NYCFC fell behind early in Tuesday’s match at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World, giving up a pair of goals in the opening 10 minutes. Jesús Medina, starting in place of injured Maxi Moralez, scored NYCFC’s first goal of 2020 in the 38th minute, but in a lackluster second half, Orlando added an insurance goal late to seal the 3-1 result.

“These past two games, the results were a bit negative, but collectively on the football side, we’re playing well,” Medina said through a translator. “But we’re missing goals and we need to play better.”

The loss keeps NYCFC at the bottom of its group with one match to play, scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m. against Inter Miami CF. With two losses, City will have to be one of the four best third-place finishers to advance. NYCFC also remains in last in the Eastern Conference standings for the regular season, dropping to 0-4-0.

Orlando City was well organized early, forcing James Sands to concede an early free kick. Joao Moutinho used the opportunity to cross a ball past a series of defenders into the foot of a lunging Chris Mueller and past keeper Sean Johnson, putting Orlando ahead in just the fourth minute.

Orlando extended its lead in the 10th against a sleepy defense. A long ball in from the right found Dom Dwyer, who headed it back across goal to a charging, unmarked Mueller. With plenty of time, Mueller calmly took a pair of touches to go around Johnson before burying his second of the match.

NYCFC adjusted, abandoning a back-three formation and pushing Sands into midfield. The move allowed City to build in possession, paying off with a highlight-reel finish by Medina. Héber floated a short pass to Medina outside the center of the box, and the 23-year-old designated player played it off his chest into the ground before turning and crushing a half volley into the top right corner.

Coach Ronny Deila eventually made some offensive-minded moves, which yielded more quality chances as the second half wore on. Still, too few open shots found the target, and Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese added a handful of quality stops to keep the advantage. When Orlando got its best chance of the second frame, it took advantage as Tesho Akindele cleaned up a rebound with a headed goal in the 81st minute.

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