Dominated. Steamrolled. Embarrassed. Crushed. Four words that are equally applicable to the degree to which Orlando City defeated the LA Galaxy on Sunday evening in the Citrus Bowl. The last time the defending champion Galaxy were beaten by four or more goals? Last July, when a little club called Manchester United made a visit to the Stub Hub Center.
The win clearly meant a lot to Orlando City. After all, the Lions were coming off three losses and a draw in their last four games, and they'd yet to win a league match at home in five attempts. Not only that, but it saw the return of long-injured projected starters Martin Paterson and Tally Hall. Yet somehow, in the midst of all that, and a 4-0 shellacking, Kaká's grace and humility still managed to steal the show.
Here are our five takeaways from Sunday night's 4-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy:
Cerén/Higuita Midfield Partnership Emerges
In their first match starting together in the central midfield, Colombian Cristian Higuita and El Salvadoran Darwin Cerén put on the sort of show that Lions fans have been waiting for. Cerén scored his first MLS goal to put Orlando up 4-0, but it was their tireless effort on both ends that really stood out. "I thought Darwin Ceren was the best player on the field today," said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the match. "They both have great energy, they both get after the ball, I was really pleased with the pair of them."
Not to put a damper on the festivities, but what does this mean for Amobi Okugo, who had started every match he was eligible for prior to Sunday? That remains to be seen, but Higuita has been injury prone, and Okugo is also a starting-caliber CB. As we've seen in prior weeks, developing depth will be essential to making a playoff run.
Cyle Larin on Fire
Rookie striker Cyle Larin continued his goal-scoring hot streak, scoring for the fourth consecutive match, including the Ponte Preta friendly. The rookie has had a trial by fire, but he's looked better each and every week and consistently found a way to find the net.
Tonight was no exception, as he showed improved holdup play from the opening whistle, and brought the same energy up front that has him locked in as the starting striker. His goal ended up being a tap in, but it was his pass to Kaká that set up the move in the first place. "Really pleased with the way that's Cyle's played," said newly fit striker Martin Paterson. "He's getting his reward. He's going to be some player."
Kaká Reps Kevin Molino
Not much to say on this one. After scoring on a penalty kick to make it 3-0, Kaká slipped on a number 18 Kevin Molino jersey over his own, to honor the popular Lion who will miss the rest of the 2015 season with an ACL injury. The captain earned a yellow card for his troubles, but showed once again that he is pure class.
Tally Hall and Martin Paterson Return
Lost in the post-victory jubilation, the biggest news from Sunday may be the return of keeper Tally Hall and striker Martin Paterson. Both were projected to be starters prior to the season, and this was the first match either has played for the Lions. Paterson may have some work to do to earn a starting spot, given the recent form of Larin. On the other hand, it seems that the Lions will stick to the plan, and the starting keeper spot will be Hall's to lose now that he is fully recovered.
"It's phenomenal [to be back]," said Hall. "I've been watching this team, seeing the fans, and I've been dying to get back in it."
Sean St. Ledger Shows his Value
While the story was all about the Lions' lack of depth after last weekend's loss to D.C. United, the narrative was flipped on its head this week. Sean St. Ledger stepped in for an injured Aurelien Collin and held the defending champions scoreless for 90 minutes alongside regular starter Seb Hines.
"[Ledger's] come in and played fantastically well," Heath said after the match. "He's an experienced guy. [He and Hines] were very, very good when they had to be."
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It was a great night for Orlando City fans, and perhaps the most exciting win in the club's short history in MLS. As the dust settles, we'll see how everything plays out heading into next week at San Jose.