Orlando SC 4- D.C. United 2
It has not been an easy few months for Orlando City SC. After coming into the season with high expectations and a year of experience under their belt much was expected of the sophomore (at least for MLS) side. But changes in management, injuries, and mental lapses have once again pushed out of the playoff conversation.
If Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United was any indication as to what Orlando City SC have in store for next year it will be nothing good for their rivals. In front of 30,022 at Camping World Stadium Orlando sent their supporters home happy and gave their rivals something to think about with a 4-2 victory.
Kevin Molino (13th minute) and Kaka (23rd minute) put Orlando ahead early in the first half with two strikes from both the right and flanks, respectively. Goals by Cristian Higuita and Julio Baptista in the second half matched United’s efforts by Alvaro Saborio and Kennedy Igboannanike to narrow Orlando’s lead.
Despite being knocked out and having little to play for, Orlando looked like the side that were preparing for a playoff run. With United resting most of their starters, the Purple Lions seized upon D.C.’s inexperience and lack of chemistry. Orlando’s patient passing methods led by Kaka and Matias Perez Garcia forced United to play catch and thus opened them up on the outside. Molino exposed United’s weakness in the 13th minute finishing a pass from Nelson Rivas on the outside to score his third goal of the season.
Kaka would get in on the scoring fun just eight minutes later brushing past United right-back Sean Franklin and knocking home his eighth goal of the season. His goal served as sort of a bookend for Orlando’s time at Camping World Stadium. Sunday’s match marked the final day at the venue as the club will be moving to a new venue at the start of next season.
“Oh yeah, but it’s different because the first game for MLS is unique,” said Kaka of the accomplishment in the post-match press conference. “I know that’s the last game for this stadium but I still think that my history of this club will be forward, so it’s just finishing one chapter of this phase.”
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But just as has happened so many times this season, a defensive miscue would hurt Orlando. In the waning minutes of the first half Orlando defender Seb Hines would make a simple, innocuous pass back to goalkeeper Joe Bendik. United midfielder Julian Buescher caught the Orlando defender off-guard and intercepted his pass inside of the eighteen yard box. Saborio would slip past Bendik and score his fifth goal of the season to cut the lead to 2-1.
In the second half Orlando would respond back immediately. Once again using the full width of the pitch Kaka and Perez-Garcia would orchestrate attacking chances against a thin United defense, this time with a twist. At halftime United coach Ben Olsen subbed off Franklin, who was making his first appearance in five weeks after sustaining a calf injury. Instead of going to his bench for a right-back Olsen opted to bring on Marcelo Sarvas (also returning from injury) and move Rob Vincent, who has not played right-back in four professional seasons.
Higuita took full advantage of this mis-match by moving inside first on a then bolting out wide to receive a pass from Kaka. With Vincent having bought the fake Higuita would have ample time and space to score his first goal of the 2016 season.
United would make things interesting late thanks to an Igboannanike strike from the left corner of the eighteen yard-box that would go far post. But Orlando and Baptista would respond with their own shot from distance in the 89th minute putting the match out of reach and giving the Purple Lions their first victory against D.C. this season.
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“I think what I really liked is that I believe for the first time since I have been here there was a sense of urgency about how we approached the first 15-20 minutes of the game,:” said Kreis. “I think that is something that needs to become a trademark of Orlando City Soccer.”
Although United (11-10-13, 36 points) did lose the match the result did not damage their chances of hosting a 2016 MLS Cup Playoff match. Thanks to the New England Revolution’s 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact United secured the number four seed in the Eastern Conference. They will host the Impact this week at RFK Stadium at a date and time to be determined.
As for Orlando City SC (9-11-14, 41 points) although this result did not punch their ticket to the playoffs it did extend their unbeaten run in league play to three consecutive matches. Much like many sides entering the offseason today there will certainly be changes to the side before they begin preseason in January. But with Kreis firmly entrenched as manager and a new stadium on the way things do appear to be heading in the right direction. If Sunday’s result is any indication of what Kreis can do with the side and their supporters level of admiration for their team 2017 should be brighter times for the Purple Lions.