|photo by Matt Kremkau
An handball leading into a penalty scored by Facundo Torres and Perdo Gallese's excellent work in front of the net was all Orlando City needed to hand the Red Bulls a loss in the season opener, 1-0.
As the curtain rises for the 28th season for the New York Red Bulls and Orlando City SC, both teams must deal with the expectations that come with it. Orlando City won its first trophy in its history last season and looking to add more to its trophy case.
Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls addressed a significant need by adding some attacking power by signing Belgian forward Dante Vanzier, who needed to be fitter to make the trip with the team.
Orlando City had their chances to get on the scoreboard first. Still, every attack was thwarted with balls drifting aimlessly off target, frustrating the home supporters who responded with anguished groans.
But the Red Bulls were the team that came the closest in the 22nd minute. Cristian Cásseres Jr got a pass over to Lewis Morgan, but Pedro Gallese was there to make the save, denying Morgan his first goal of the season.
However, with the Red Bulls having the lion's share of possession and holding the hosts without a single shot on goal, both teams were bereft of ideas in front of the box as the first 45 minutes ended with a scoreless stalemate.
The Red Bulls' vaunted press has been causing problems in Orlando City's backline all evening, and it almost paid off with John Tolkin and Frankie Amaya causing a turnover. But Amaya could not find the shooting angle, allowing City's defense to recover and block several shots from Luquinhas, thus keeping the match scoreless.
The match turned in Orlando City's favor when they received a lifeline as a penalty was called when defender Sean Nealis was called a handball in the box. Facundo Torres converted the penalty kick shortly after, and the home side took the lead in the 57th minute.
Red Bulls had an excellent opportunity to level the match in the 85th minute, but Pedro Gallese stoned Cristian Cásseres with a brilliant save to keep the Red Bulls off the board. As the Red Bulls pressed on, hoping to walk out of Exploria Stadium with a point, they had one last chance when they earned a freekick deep into stoppage time.
However, Cristian Cásseres' blistering shot went straight to Gallese, who ended his stellar evening, sending the Red Bulls back home with a loss to open the 2023 season.
Of course, one match may not be enough to assess the season, but Coach Struber was more than just annoyed during the post-match conference. He was frustrated that his team "worked hard" but could not score a goal despite holding the hosts to just one shot after 45 minutes of play. Still, soccer is a game played in 90 minutes, and if your team cannot adjust after giving up a goal, no matter how controversial it may be, victories will be out of reach.
Orlando City SC: Gallese, Petrasso, Jansson, Schlegel, Halliday, Araijo, Pereira, Angulo, Ojeda, Torres, Kara
New York Red Bulls: Coronel, Harper, Reyes, S. Nealis, Tolkin, Luquinhas, Amaya, Casseres, Morgan, Manoel, Barlow