Heading into the game, the main focus was on how the Lions were going to react after suffering their first loss of the season last week.
They didn’t disappoint.
After losing Antonio Nocerino early in the first half to a reported calf injury, substitute Servando Carrasco’s 34th-minute opener led Orlando City to a 1-0 victory over New York Red Bulls on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 25,527 at Orlando City Stadium.
“I think in all three of the home matches, I thought a lot of the same things after the match. Maybe the second one was a little bit better than the first and third, but so many positive statements to make about effort level, intensity level, commitment of the players to defend. Real, real signs of togetherness and just a fortitude that says we won’t be broken at home,” said Orlando City coach Jason Kreis moments after the game.
Carrasco entered in the 17th minute after Nocerino was substituted out. 17 minutes later, the holding midfielder snuck a header past Luis Robles during a corner kick, which was taken by Will Johnson in the 34th minute.
“I think it was hard-fought game, it wasn’t pretty, but we showed tremendous fight,” said Carrasco. “It was a really tough game, but to come out with three points was the goal. The fact that I scored is secondary to me. The fact that I can contribute is the main thing.”
It was Carrasco’s first goal since 2013 when he played for the Seattle Sounders. It was later confirmed Nocerino suffered a mild calf injury and will be evaluated on Monday.
It was a rather physical match between both sides. Orlando City (3-1-0, 9 points) conceded 23 fouls, 15 of which were committed in the second half. While the Red Bulls tallied 15 fouls for the entire match.
On the possession front, the Red Bulls (2-3-1, 7 points) controlled 61.3 percentage of the ball.
20-year-old Tommy Redding started alongside Jonathan Spector in the backline. Starting centre back Jose Aja was ruled out for 2-4 weeks after suffering a grade-1 hamstring injury during the Columbus game last week.
The Red Bulls came close to equalizing the score in the 86th minute after Bradley Wright-Phillips sent a curling strike toward goal, but Joe Bendik was able to swipe the ball out of bounds.
Lineup changes heading into the game included defender Scott Sutter and midfielder Cristian Higuita starting for the first time this season for the Lions. Kevin Alson, who was suffering from a hamstring injury, returned to the game day roster on the bench.
Newly signed midfielder Luis Gil made his Orlando City debut, entering in the 83rd minute for Matias Perez Garcia.
Giles Barnes was substituted into the game in the 69th minute for Cristian Higuita.
Orlando City lineups
Joe Bendik; Donny Toia, Scott Sutter, Tommy Redding; Will Johnson (c), Antonio Nocerino, Matias Perez Garcia, Cristian Higuita; Cyle Larin, Carlos Rivas.
Bench: Josh Saunders; Victor PC Giro, Kevin Alston, Servando Carrasco, Luis Gil, Hadji Barry, Giles Barnes.
Orlando City’s forwards Carlos Rivas and Cyle Larin had four and two shots, respectively.
Orlando City remains undefeated at home, and welcome the LA Galaxy on Saturday at 3 p.m. on FOX.
(Photo Courtesy of Joe Petro)