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PRESEASON: New York, Orlando share spoils in thrilling 4-4 draw, former Red Bulls strike back

The New York Red Bulls and Orlando City SC have excited neutral fans of Major League Soccer for their first regular season match come City’s arrival in 2015.

The teams ended their campaigns in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic with a 4-4 draw. The result sees New York end their preseason with an overall record of 3-2-1.

“Eight goals scored is definitely an exciting match for people there watching,” Head coach Mike Petke said in a post-game interview. “Our ball movement at times was the best so far this preseason.”

Petke’s team came from behind twice to equalize at 2-2. Unfortunately, after taking the lead at 3-2 and 4-3, the Red Bulls conceded two further goals to end the match with an even scoreline.

Starting Lineup: Robles; Duvall, Armando, Sekagya, Kimura; Sam, Alexander, McCarty, Steele; Luyindula, Wright-Phillips

The starters (besides rookie Chris Duvall) are most likely the individuals prepared to play the season opener in Vancouver on March 8. Everyone, except for Duvall and Bradley Wright-Phillips, went the full 90 minutes. Richard Eckersley and Andre Akpan were the only substitutes, according to the official RBNY twitter feed.

The opening goal came in the seventh minute. Corey Hertzog, a Generation Adidas draft pick in 2011 for New York, scored after confusion by right back Duvall and goalkeeper Robles. A misplaced header fell for Hertzog to stroke into an empty net.

A response came in the 29th minute. Wright-Phillips finished a low cross from (newly dubbed) two-way winger, Lloyd Sam. The English forward stretched to glance in his compatriot’s low ball into the side netting.

“I was just trying to get across the front post,” Wright-Phillips said in a post-game interview. “Playing up front with Peguy [Luyindula], he likes to drop deeper a bit, so I know I have the responsibility of covering the box.”

In the second half, Orlando almost immediately went ahead. Forward Dennis Chin pulled away from Ibrahim Sekagya at the near post to redirect a header past a frustrated Robles. After 47 minutes, the scoreline read 2-1 to Orlando.

This time, however, the Red Bulls took only a few minutes to equalize. Wright-Phillips “collected a brace” when he beat his defender and the goalie to poke the ball in from a Johnny Steele driven cross on the left. The Englishman said he “tried to get to the front post” on multiple occasions and “got two goals for it”.

In the 68th minute, the Red Bulls took the lead for the first time. Atoning for his previous mistake, Sekagya roofed a rebound after the keeper saved a Wright-Phillips shot off a set-piece.

Not to be outdone, Orlando scored off their own set-piece in the 76th minute. Adama Mbengue collected a faulty clearance at the top of the 18. He controlled with one touch and unleashed a volley nearside, past Robles to equalize at 3-3.

The 80th minute saw Johnny Steele score an apparent game winner. A left-footed drive into the bottom corner came from a layoff by Peguy Luyindula in the box. The scoring was not over though. A through-ball by Mbengue found forward Kevin Molino’s to finish in stride to end the match at 4-4.

Despite conceding four goals, Petke chose to focus on the “pockets” of space his team repeatedly found in “bits and pieces” of the first half and “large chunks” of the second.

Having said that, the result in Kissimmee, FL. was merely a formality for the Red Bulls. Petke spoke about the relief of going home and beginning the regular season.

“It’s been a long, long preseason,” Petke said in the same post-game interview. “Of course, we’re looking forward to the first game. It’s what we’re here to play for and what our job is – to play MLS games.”

General thoughts: 

  • Armando and Sekagya starting together in central defense is an indicator that they will begin the game in Vancouver next week. What is worrisome, despite this being a preseason game, is that they were part of a back four that conceded four goals against a USL PRO team. Yes, playing alongside a rookie right back is not easy, especially when he makes a costly mistake, but they simply must do better. The ease in which Orlando forward Molino could run through the defense on the last goal is an encouraging sign for the speedy Vancouver strikers watching. Once again, though, this is preseason, so not all signs are as telling as one might think they are for the regular season.
  • With no live game feed, it was difficult to access individual performances from both teams. But this game against Orlando brings up the question, why did the administration during the Hans Backe era deem Austin Da Luz surplus to requirements? Hertzog was not the only former Red Bull. Da Luz, drafted in 2010 by New York, played 367 minutes in 7 games (4 starts) with a goal and assist in the 2011 regular season. His goal statistics came in an impressive start away in Portland. The match ended 3-3. Da Luz, primarily a left midfielder, took his goal well, and he seemed destined to contribute even more. Then he was traded to DC for an international roster spot. As much as Backe demonstrated team consistency for making the playoffs three successive years, he ultimately won nothing. Besides nurturing Tim Ream, Ryan Meara and Connor Lade (no feats to laugh at admittedly), his handling of young, mainly American talent was poor. Da Luz was a casulty of the Backe regime.
  • Wright-Phillips scored twice. That is a positive (I do not always have lengthy explanations).
  • Luyindula appeared to run the show once again from a central attacking midfield position. He routinely appears in the highlight video, setting up multiple chances.
  • I predict that Penn State alum, Corey Hertzog, will earn a spot on Orlando City’s 2015 inaugural MLS roster or find a place in Seattle, the team that currently possess his player rights. Like Da Luz, he was unlucky not to be given more chances under Backe. He is an instinctive finisher.
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