Orlando City has won four straight and kept its faint playoff hopes alive for another week with a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact in front of more than 35,000 fans at the Citrus Bowl. The unlikely hero was Seb Hines, who scored the game winner with less than ten minutes left in regulation.
Things started off with a scary midair collision between starting defenders Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos. Both were stretchered off and Ramos went to the hospital to deal with a severe laceration on his face after a clash of heads left both players woozy.
So Adrian Heath was forced to make two substitutions very early on and despite that, a goal against that shouldn't have counted, and the appearance of Didier Drogba, the Lions prevailed.
Here are my player grades from Orlando City's fourth consecutive victory and first over a Canadian team this season:
GK, Tally Hall, 7 - Hall only faced two shots on goal but he was alert to the danger all night, coming out early to keep a ball away from Ambroise Oyongo from becoming a problem, stopping a shot from Johan Venegas late in the game, and catching or punching several crosses away from the danger area as the Impact pushed for a late equalizer. Stopped a dangerous ball in the 43rd minute, only to see Dominic Oduro kick it out of his grasp and in for a goal, which is kind of against the rules, but whatevs.
D, Brek Shea, 8 - Shea was excellent, starting on the left side and shifting over to the right after the injuries sidelined Ramos and Redding. Despite being on his weaker side, Shea caused problems down the right side all evening and mostly took care of his defensive responsibilities. Nearly had goal of the week in the 51st minute but smashed a curling effort off the crossbar from distance.
D, Tommy Redding, N/A - An unfortunate early exit for the young Homegrown Player. Officially left in the 11th minute but was down much earlier than that, getting treatment on the pitch for a long time. Not really enough minutes to make an impact.
D, Aurelien Collin, 8 - The Frenchman cleared everything he got his feet on and played an excellent match. Kept Drogba in check once the Ivorian checked in and was strong in the air. He also moved the ball well all night and helped Orlando keep possession for long spells, particularly in the first half and early in the second half.
D, Rafael Ramos, N/A - Like Redding, his night ended much too soon. Hopefully there are no long-term effects, as the club has two weeks to prepare for New York City FC, and will be without both Brek Shea and Kaká, due to yellow card accumulation.
MF, Servando Carrasco, 8 - Fantastic game for the defensive midfielder. Carrasco broke up plays all over the pitch, filling in for the suspended Cristian Higuita. Higuita's absence wasn't even noticeable, which is a huge credit to Servando. Registered four tackles, four interceptions and a clearance, completing 85% of his passes, and helped the backline keep Montreal's attack in check, along with...
MF, Darwin Ceren, 8 - The Salvadoran was all over the pitch just like his counterpart in the defensive midfield, with six interceptions and three tackles. Narrowly missed a goal in the 27th minute with a rocket from distance. Chipped in a couple of key passes, two crosses and several accurate long balls to go with a team-high 65 passes (completing 84.6%). Another outstanding job by Ceren.
MF, Carlos Rivas, 6 - The Colombian continues to delight with his speed and crossing and utterly disappoint with his shots. None of his four shots were on target but he had a team-high eight crosses and continually bothered the Montreal defense with his pace down whichever wing he was on, drawing several fouls.
MF, Kaká, 7 - The captain seemed just a tad off with his touch at times but was still able to show his quality often. Sent in Carlos Rivas late for what should have been an insurance goal. Only one key pass, no shots and a couple of uncharacteristically heavy touches near the end line, but he was dangerous on crosses, serving five into the box. Did a solid job defensively of staying active and applying pressure.
MF, Lewis Neal, 5.5 - Badly scuffed a shot in the box off a Shea pass in the 13th minute in another underwhelming offensive effort. It was his only shot of the night and he had one key pass. He did manage to complete 91.4% of his passes but made only 35 of them. The Lions seemed to actively avoid his side of the pitch when he swapped spots with Carlos Rivas in the second half, sending the Colombian to the right wing.
F, Cyle Larin, 6.5 - The Canadian was just a touch off much of the night but he did score a goal off a bad Montreal giveaway in the 33rd minute and his presence up top was clearly a concern for the Impact defense. Drew only one foul and he seemed to tire midway through the second half.
D, Luke Boden (11'), 6.5 - A bit of a mixed bag for Luke tonight, with several crucial challenges but also turned the ball over leading to Montreal's goal and got beat a few times late, allowing the Impact to get some dangerous crosses into the box in search of their equalizer. A workmanlike effort and did well to get the ball back into the box on what eventually became Seb Hines' game-winning goal.
D, Seb Hines (11'), 8 (MOTM) - Seb returned from a dislocated shoulder suffered last week and made it pay off. He and Collin really owned the defensive third. Hines finished with four interceptions, two tackles, a clearance and a blocked shot, to go along with his 80th-minute winning goal. Completed nearly 85% of his passes and was calm on the ball and with the ball pinging around in the box.
F, Bryan Rochez (69'), 5.5 - Replaced Lewis Neal in the 69th minute and wasn't terribly involved, seeing his three-game goal-scoring streak come to an end. Rochez was good in holdup play but didn't complete (or attempt) many passes. Did manage a shot on target and played well defensively, heading away a clearance in the late stages.
Those are my player ratings. Vote below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.