New York City FC held Orlando City to a 1-1 draw at the Yankee Stadium to keep both sides level on points in the league table.
The Pigeons had to come back from a goal down through a Heber strike in the second half before Nani had found the back of the net early in the first half.
This was the two sides’ second meeting in just as many months as they had faced each other in the first week of March at the Orlando City Stadium in a game that had ended in a 2-2 draw. That draw was NYCFC’s start of a run of six winless games.
In what turned out to be a rather lethargic affair between the two midtable sides, City controlled possession early on but couldn’t really stamp their control over the tie.
Orlando relied on the counter and nearly broke through within the first minutes but James Sands kept James O’Connor’s men at bay, as a possible chance went begging.
And City’s inability to gather themselves up on the transition did cause them serious problems.
After Maxime Chanot failed to clear the ball well enough, the ball fell to Orlando right-back Ruan. The Brazilian put in a good cross which fell right at Nani’s feet and landed into the back of the net. The former Man United man didn’t even take a touch before handing O’Connor’s men a crucial lead.
The Portuguese came up with a throwback to his times at Old Trafford, performing the backflip celebration for the first time as an Orlando player.
The Lions kept the pressure in the second half and had multiple chances to double their lead.
Tesho Akindele thought he had scored for Orlando after Chris Mueller’s cross was not dealt with at all by NYCFC defenders, but the goal was chalked off for offside. It was Nani’s backheel that had set Mueller up in the final third, but the Portuguese was deemed to be in an offside position by VAR.
It was after the disallowed goal that the Pigeons woke up to their senses and nearly equalized through Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. The striker had chipped Lions’ stopper Brian Rowe but the shot went the wrong side of the post.
The manner in which NYCFC ended the first half gave them the initiative in the second half. And it paid off when Heber handed them an equalizer.
After Rowe had saved an initial attempt from Maxi Moralez, the ball smacked the post and fell right in Heber’s path, helping the Brazilian to score his second goal for the club since his arrival from Rijeka last month.
But Domènec Torrent’s side nearly gave away their point when Ruan went past Alexander Callens and put a cross into the box for Dom Dwyer. The 28-year-old who had come on from the bench, but his header wide despite being unmarked.
The draw left both sides with 12 points each, five points off leaders DC United. It also extended the Pigeon’s unbeaten run to as many as five games.