The Lions grabbed their fifth consecutive win with a 2-1 decision over New York City FC, claiming the second-longest winning streak in Major League Soccer this season (tied with FC Dallas) -- only New England Revolution's six-game streak was longer. Orlando City did it in front of the second-largest home crowd of the season, with 43,179 screaming fans in the Citrus Bowl.
And they did it by battling adversity, coming from behind a goal that was scored in the final minute of first-half stoppage after a corner kick that should probably never have been allowed. A through ball appeared to completely cross the line before Thomas McNamara pulled it back and had his cross deflected out for the corner. Kwame Watson-Siriboe was the lucky recipient of a carom in the box on the ensuing corner and fired past Tally Hall to put the visitors in front with the last kick of the first half.
The Lions got a brace from Cyle Larin, and may have deserved a third goal that appeared to cross the line under the rear end of Jefferson Mena, but the same assistant referee who missed the ball over the line that set up the first half, could not get a clear view of the ball in the net. Still, Orlando City would face more adversity when Hall went down with a freak non-contact knee injury and had to come off at 84'. Josh Ford came on but did not get tested and the Lions held on.
Here are my player grades from Orlando City's win that clinched a better record than NYCFC this season:
GK, Tally Hall, 6.5 - Hall didn't have a lot to do, so his default setting is more or less at 7, but he had a couple distribution issues, including a goal kick that sailed out of play before reaching the midfield line. Did fine on crosses and balls in the air and stopped the one stoppable shot on target New York City FC mustered. Unfortunately left with a right knee injury in the 84th minute. If Hall is out for the season, making the playoffs will be even that much more difficult.
D, Luke Boden, 8 - Another solid outing for Bodz, who got half a point shaved for having some uncharacteristically meh free/corner kicks. Led the team with 80 touches (along with Cristian Higuita) and was involved throughout, whether working the ball up the left, or cutting into the middle to redirect the attack when his preferred outside lane got cut off.
D, Seb Hines, 7 - Just a solid, safe night for Seb, who managed one shot attempt and 78% passing. Wasn't forced to make any tackles but his positioning was sound throughout the match and his partnership with Aurelien Collin in the middle of the defense kept all of the danger out wide and gave Hall a good view of everything happening in front of him.
D, Aurelien Collin, 8 - The big Frenchman put in quite a night of work, tracking David Villa's movement and sniffing out danger before New York City could create anything from it. If there are any complaints, a few of his headers on crosses went straight to the opposition. Aside from that, he was solid, completing 80.5% of his passes with two tackles won and being a commanding presence on the back line.
D, Corey Ashe, 8 - For not having played in a month and a half, and playing on his weaker right side, Ashe was outstanding. He created the width that Brek Shea normally creates, using his speed to menace NYCFC's back line all evening. His crosses were dangerous, including the right-footer that Cyle Larin headed home for the first goal in the 62nd minute. Had another that went just a tad over Adrian Winter that could have been another assist.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 8.5 - Started the game slowly and conceded a few too many fouls in the first half, including taking a silly yellow unnecessarily in the 36th minute. But the Colombian came more into the game it wore on and he was commanding in central midfield. Completed 91.1% of his passes with a co-team-high 80 touches , won eight tackles and created a chance that Cyle Larin really should have scored on. A very close runner-up for Man of the Match, for me.
MF, Darwin Ceren, 8 - The Salvadoran completed almost 85% of his passes and was nearly as strong in the middle as Higuita, although he took far fewer chances and committed fewer fouls. A solid night for Darwin, who was almost a quieter version of Higuita on this night.
MF, Carlos Rivas, 8.5 (MOTM) - The Colombian tortured New York City's back line all evening and should have had at least three assists to show for his efforts. Cyle Larin was a bit out of sync in the first half and that kept him from finishing or getting to some outstanding Rivas crosses. Had an insane video game move in the 44th minute to shake a double team and get into the box, where he crossed one hard across the six-yard box but Larin couldn't quite connect with it. Won three free kicks, tracked back on defense to provide support, and was dangerous all night.
MF, Lewis Neal, 5.5 - Completed 86.7% of his passes but had the fewest touches of any of the starting midfielders and missed an absolute sitter, wasting a gorgeous feed from Adrian Winter. Neal plays safe, solid soccer and reads the game well, but he doesn't seem to contribute a whole lot in the attack. Lost possession a number of times in traffic.
MF, Adrian Winter, 7.5 - Disappeared for some short stretches of the game, but Winter's work rate was second to none. Harassed defenders with high pressure all night, fell back to cover for Corey Ashe on defense whenever needed and assisted on Larin's second goal, after himself being robbed on a scoring chance by Josh Saunders. Should have had another assist on the chance Neal missed just wide.
F, Cyle Larin, 8 - The Canadian started slow, taking one golden scoring chance and missing so badly it resulted in a throw-in for NYCFC. He had trouble fighting through defenders to get onto Rivas crosses in the first half. But he got stronger as the game went on, finishing with seven shots, getting four on frame and scoring two goals to equal NYCFC Designated Player David Villa on 17 for the season. His play in the first 20-30 minutes was just a bit off, costing him my MOTM pick on this night.
MF, Servando Carrasco (76'), 5 - Came on for Lewis Neal and sat deep, helping fend off the NYCFC attack. Only had four touches in his 18+ minutes and completed only one of his three passes. Didn't really have much impact on the game, but for playing as long as he did, he probably should have had more to show for his time.
F, Bryan Rochez (81'), 7 - The Honduran replaced Cyle Larin and immediately injected energy into the game, holding the ball in the corner to help waste time and generating multiple corner kicks. Only had six touches but made them all count and completed both of his passes. A good, albeit brief, outing.
GK, Josh Ford (84'), N/A - Came on in emergency relief for Tally Hall to make his long-awaited MLS debut, and wasn't tested with a shot on target. He did claim one cross but didn't honestly have much to do other than take a few goal kicks, one of which was a weak pop-up to shortstop. Not sure I can grade his work on such a short stint without much to do, but it was nice to see Josh get into a game, even if it wasn't the way we'd like to see it happen.
Those are my player ratings. Vote below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.