As people, we are always learning new things. As Orlando City SC reporters, the same rule applies. The Lions managed to scrap their way to a victory in Texas with lots of grit and determination. As we all take a collective sigh of relief and move on to next game Saturday back at home, let's take a look back at some things we can take away from this game vs. the Houston Dynamo.
1. Rafael Ramos is coming into his own
In arguably a breakout performance, Ramos looked like the player many in the Orlando City organization expected him to be. He was dangerous on both sides of the field and was able to control the ball well around defenders. Most importantly, he shut down former USMNT player DeMarcus Beasley and current USMNT player Brad Davis on the left side of the pitch. His pace made it hard for both of them to create chances for their Dynamo teammates and at the same time, widened the pitch for his Orlando colleagues. He'll be a big asset for the Lions going forward if he can continue to get more comfortable in the league.
2. Defensive Clearances
I'm not sure how many nerve-racking clearances there were by the Orlando back line, but there were way too many. Credit to Seb Hines and Sean St. Ledger though. They played a good overall game and didn't even let Houston get a shot on target. That being said, they need to clear the ball away from the goal. There were many times the clearances were mishit or kicked straight into the air with everyone looking around, trying to find the ball. That needs to change. This shouldn't overshadow the overall performance the defense had in the game. They held the Houston offense in check and are looking better each game.
3. Cerén's First MLS Start
With Cristian Higuita dealing with a groin injury, the starting defensive midfield position belonged to USL holdover and El Salvador captain Darwin Cerén. Having played in the Carolina Challenge Cup match against the Dynamo, Cerén was a bit familiar with last night's opponents. In that preseason match, however, he did not look at all comfortable playing against them. But that was preseason. Last night Cerén, along with Amobi Okugo, held down the midfield and did a fairly good job at that. He wasn't spectacular by any means and he did have a few bad turnovers, but overall he had a solid performance. This will raise some questions going forward as to who is the better fit to go along with Okugo? The least Cerén has done after tonight is put that question into people's heads and that's a good start.
Even though I have watched him play for the past four years, I am still impressed by the play of Kevin Molino. He always finds new ways to show his ability and assert his dominance into the game. His pairing with Kaká is helping evolve his game to new levels and it's only a matter of time before those passes that they are able to string together result in a Molino goal. In the two games that Orlando has played in MLS, the television commentators have singled out Molino as the player that most impressed them. For those who have also seen what Molino is capable of, it's only a matter of time before he takes the league by storm.
5. The Forward Issue
This has been a theme over the past two games. There has been great buildup and passes to create goal scoring chances, but Orlando has been lacking that finishing touch to get a goal. Carlos Rivas, who has had chances, can't quite find the timing between his attacking partners. Bryan Róchez also looks to be out for possibly another game, due to fitness issues. Adrian Heath was quoted after the game, saying, "We feel as though he's lacking a little bit of fitness. And we didn't want to travel, him not get on the field and waste three days." With so many questions up front, who can be Orlando's go-to striker going forward?
The Lions now have another week to prepare for their next home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps in front of a lot less fans than last week. Now that the first win is out of the way, Orlando can hopefully take this next game in stride and pull out another three points.