Sunday night we saw Orlando City's inaugural MLS season come to a close in a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, as the last remnants of playoff hopes faded with every passing scoreless minute.
It was a tough way to watch the season come to a close, but in true Stock Watch fashion, we recognize the play on the pitch had its bright spots just as well as its dark. Let's take a look at how the last Stock Watch of the MLS season looks at our Orlando City Lions.
Josh Ford - There's some division on our own staff on the perception of his play, but I for one was impressed. He made big saves in either half, including a flurry in the opening five minutes in which he received little defensive help.
First, you saw Brek Shea lose his man tracking back on a relatively elementary run down the flank. When Ford snuffed that chance out, two laughably bad clearance attempts led to another shot turned away, building some early momentum that ultimately was for naught.
For his first MLS start, I was quite impressed. Some holes in his game, assuredly, but a definitively solid performance from a relative unknown was quite the surprise.
Pedro Ribeiro - I know most of you likely expect to see one of the center backs here, but I can't justify it. Collin positively whiffed on a clearance attempt that looked straight off a high school pitch in the above clip, and Seb Hines took out the Union keeper to prevent Collin's headed goal in a truly deflating moment on the pitch.
While Ribeiro played just 15 minutes, he completed all eight of his passes and was responsible for one of the club's four shots on target. Generally a bright spot whenever healthy, it was good to see the young utility player end the season on a high note.
The Officiating - I'm at a loss. I don't know what I can say about these refs that I haven't already. Neither does Adrian Heath, who was quoted after the match saying, "I'm at a loss about the referee's performance. I really am. I'm at a loss with it. I don't want to say anymore, I don't want to say anything about him."
I'll drink to that, Inchy.
Cristian Higuita - By now, you loyal Mane Landers know I'm a total mark for Cristian Higuita. He's been one of the most efficient midfielders in MLS, changing games by essentially doing everything Chelsea's midfield has forgotten how to do. On this night, however, he was less than impressive.
Our managing editor Michael Citro said it all in his player grades following the match: "All the breakup play and solid passing in the world means nothing if you can't stay on the pitch or allow the other team scoring opportunities."
A supremely talented midfielder with both age and confidence on his side, it will be exciting to see how Higuita grows over the winter break.