September started badly for Orlando City after a 3-0 loss at New England on Sept. 5, but the Lions bounced back in a big way after that defeat and finished the month on a three-match win streak. With the club now making a final push for the playoffs, we look back at the best moments of the last month as the calendar turns to October.
Goal of the Month
The first nominee for goal of the month came courtesy of winger Adrian Winter in Orlando's 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City
After getting the ball near the top of the 18-yard box from Bryan Róchez, Winter plays a silky one-two with Lewis Neal to beat a pair of SKC defenders, before beating a third defender to the ball and finishing from about 10 yards out. The beautiful bit of build-up play was quick and lethally effective, and Winter's goal at the end of the sequence put the icing on the cake of a quality win for City.
The second nominee comes from the new MLS all-time leading rookie goal scorer, Cyle Larin, against New York Red Bulls on Sept. 25.
This wonderfully headed goal opened the scoring in what ended up being a runaway 5-2 win for the Lions, and it also claimed the record for Larin who had been stuck on 11 goals since Aug. 1. After Kaká curled in a cross towards the near post, Larin skillfully redirected the ball across the face of goal towards the far post and past NYRB 'keeper Luis Robles. While the finish may not have even been Larin's finest on an evening when he bagged a hat trick, the historical significance gets this one into the running for Goal of the Month honors for Kid Fantastic.
The Mane Land staff pick: Adrian Winter vs. SKC. The one-two played with Neal prior to the finish was just too pretty to be beat.
Save of the Month
Tally Hall certainly looked like "The Wall" several times in September, but we'll narrow it down to two for the sake of brevity. The first nominee came in the month's opening game at New England, where Tally earned himself a Save of the Week nomination from MLS.
After a bouncing ball found its way to the feet of Chris Tierney, the Revs defender fired a low, left-footed effort toward goal. Tierney struck this one with pace toward the bottom left corner of the net and, with all of his momentum taking him in the wrong direction, Hall managed to stick his right foot out and back to deflect the shot out of play. It was an athletic display from Hall, who kept the 3-0 loss from being much, much worse with several great stops throughout the match.
Nominee number two came in the Lions' 1-0 triumph over Chicago Fire at the Citrus Bowl.
After Chicago's Harry Shipp found a ball floating down to him just outside the top of the box, he coolly played it down off his chest and unfurled a half-volley that was headed for the top right shelf of Orlando's net. The effort would have been MLS Goal of the Week material, but Hall made a diving, two-handed denial to thwart the shot and preserve OCSC's clean sheet and three precious points.
The Mane Land staff pick: Hall on Shipp vs. Chicago. The beauty of the curling effort from Shipp was only matched by the stop from Hall, which ultimately saved the 1-0 road win as well.
Player of the Month: Cristian Higuita
When casting our votes, Higuita was a unanimous selection from TML staff, so there was no need to include any other nominees for this month's award.
Higuita was easily the Lions' top player in the month of September, looking like the best player on the pitch in purple throughout. His 87% pass accuracy ranks top-10 in MLS and proves his distribution skills, while his defensive abilities in the central midfield are critical for Orlando City. Higuita hounds opposing attackers with a relentless drive, and the young Colombian has quickly become one of the best defensive mids in MLS, and is still a relatively unknown asset despite his excellent play.
Higuita averaged a 7.5 rating in OCSC's four MLS matches in September according to our player grades at The Mane Land, which almost exactly mirrors the 7.47 average rating he accrued from Who Scored across that same span. Hopefully the 21-year-old remains in Orlando for a long, long time.
Disagree with any of our picks? Let us below in the comments section!