Orlando City made its first trip to the Pacific Northwest, and they'll come home with three points and a confidence boost after a commanding 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers.
Providence Park in Portland is one of the most difficult places to play in MLS, with the Timbers having not lost a match at home since last August. The home side was missing two key players in Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, but the Timbers were coming off a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas, and they're expected to be in playoff contention in the tough Western Conference.
Timber Joey's chainsaw stayed silent tonight though, as Orlando's possession soccer -- and some key defensive stands -- kept the Timbers off the board.
The Lions (2-2-2, 8 points) controlled the game for much of the first 45, completing an impressive 83% of their passes and winning the possession battle. Orlando fans had to be concerned for the first half hour though, as the Lions continued to suffer from the finishing issues that have plagued them all year.
Kevin Molino had a golden opportunity in the 13th minute, after Brek Shea found him wide open just yards from goal. The Trinidadian hesitated for a moment though, and his attempt was blocked. Darwin Ceren and Cyle Larin both had decent chances in the following minutes, but neither was able to put their shot on frame.
Larin put the fans at ease right at the 30-minute mark though, with a wonderful chested goal off a rocket Molino cross to put Orlando City up 1-0. It was unconventional, but Larin certainly won't be complaining about his first professional goal. The Canadian international put in a very solid 82 minutes for the Lions, and certainly made a claim for another opportunity to start up top.
The second half was much better for Portland (1-2-3, 6 points), as Orlando seemed to fall back into a defensive shell. In the 65th minute, Diego Chara's cross bounced around inside the penalty area until the Lions finally managed to clear. Just three minutes later, Fanendi Adi had a wide open header at the top of the six yard box, but he put his attempt just over the bar.
The pressure continued, and it began to look more and more like Orlando was destined to give up yet another late goal. Donovan Ricketts made a few big saves for Orlando City, but it was Amobi Okugo and Seb Hines in front of him who were called on repeatedly to make sliding blocks on Portland shooters.
City Head Coach Adrian Heath substituted Carlos Rivas for Larin in the 82nd minute, and his impact was nearly immediate. He broke away just one minute later, and Portland keeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey took down the Colombian to concede the first penalty in the Lions' MLS existence.
Kaká stepped up to take it, and his attempt was seemingly denied at first. Portland was penalized for Chara encroaching into the penalty area early though, and Kaká calmly buried the second attempt into the roof of the net to put City up 2-0.
Orlando dug in and held on from there, and remain undefeated on the road so far in the 2015 season. While Kaká and Brek Shea were great yet again, the match may be remembered more as the national coming out party for Larin. Orlando City will surely be hoping that the goal will be the first of many for the rookie striker.
The Lions will visit Columbus Crew SC next Saturday night.