The streak continues! Tonight's 1-0 win over D.C. United is Orlando's fifth consecutive unbeaten match, including wins over D.C., Chicago, and the Galaxy.
This one was particularly sweet for the Orlando City, who had already lost two previous matches to Eastern Conference leading United so far this season. The season sweep wasn't to be though, as Captain Kaká was able to finish his own blocked penalty kick, and the Lions were able to hold on for the tight win.
Head Coach Adrian Heath also employed a slightly different strategy, asking wingers Eric Avila and Brek Shea to tuck inside a bit more. This allowed fullbacks Luke Boden and Rafael Ramos to romp forward with gusto, and D.C. had no answer for either all night.
It's only the second home win for Orlando, but it may have been the best match of the season for many of the players. Not only that, but for the moment, it catapults the Lions all the way up to third place in the Eastern Conference Table.
G, Tally Hall, 7 -- Not called on all that much, but came up big when he was. Solid save on on Jairo Arrieta's blast in the 25th minute, though almost gave up a howler when he and Sean St. Ledger misplayed a through ball and Arrieta almost nodded it into an open net.
D, Luke Boden, 8 (MOTM) -- Perhaps Boden's best performance yet in Major League Soccer. With Shea tucking inside, Bodz was involved in the attack throughout the match. His crossing wasn't quite deadly on the night, but he was constantly involved in the buildup.
D, Sean St. Ledger, 6 -- A few shaky clearances for the Republic of Ireland international, but when the opponent's showing a zero on the scoreboard at the final whistle, you can't really complain.
D, Aurelien Collin, 7 -- Another good night for Collin, who found another gear in the last few minutes to keep Orlando in the lead. Distribution wasn't perfect, but he was normally able to clean up his own mistakes.
D, Rafael Ramos, 8-- Could just as easily be the the MOTM of this one, as he and Boden were both the main forces in attack for Orlando City. Absolutely tireless as well, as he and Higuita were two of the only players on the field still seemingly going 100% into stoppage time on the sweltering Orlando evening.
MF, Lewis Neal, 7.5 -- Brought a totally different dynamic to the Lions' attack from his new spot in the central midfield. Just barely missed springing Pedro Ribeiro with a beautiful long ball in the 26th minutes. Coach Heath interrupted a reporter post-game when he brought up Neal: "Quite well? He played fantastic," said the Orlando City head coach.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 6.5 -- A fairly typical match for Higuita; all over the place for 90+ minutes, with occasionally too many lapses and giveaways. Made a potentially goal-saving tackle in the 84th minute, and was generally stellar on the defensive end.
MF, Brek Shea, 6.5 -- Was involved in the attack all night, but somewhat quieter than usual in his more narrow role. Kaká and Eric Avila respectively both failed to find him on what looked to be dangerous runs, and it just didn't look like the chemistry was quite there. Still, he was all over the field, and did well to kill some clock in the final minutes.
MF, Kaká, 6.5 -- D.C. United does not bring out the best in the captain. Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud's constant harassment seem to bother the Brazilian, and he was a non-factor through much of the match. His penalty attempt in the 30th minute was saved, but he was able to coolly head in the rebound.
MF, Eric Avila, 5.5 -- After a run of good matches, Avila was quieter tonight. He did combine well with Ramos on the right side, but he really wasn't able to create much offense on his own in his more central role. Should have done much more with the short corner he was gifted in the 51st minute.
F, Pedro Ribeiro, 6.5 -- His lack of speed is very apparent when compared to the absent Cyle Larin. He played well though, and earned the penalty that would turn out to be the winner for Orlando City. His talent is obvious, but it still doesn't seem that striker is the right role for him in Heath's 4-2-3-1 system.
F, Carlos Rivas (83'), 6.5 -- An obvious sub for Ribeiro, who looked gassed fairly early in the second half. His speed clearly caused trouble for D.C. as they looked to get forward and attack. Had a golden chance on a breakaway in the 87th minute, and blasted it way over the bar. Still, did what was asked of him.
MF, Amobi Okugo (83'), 6.5 -- Provided a much needed energy boost for the last 10 minutes as the Lions desperately tried to hold onto their lead. Covered a ton of ground, and generally disrupted D.C.'s attack.
MF, Harrison Heath (90'), N/A -- A brief cameo appearance for the younger Heath, who came on for Kaká in stoppage time. Most notably, he'll be able to tell people for the rest of his life that Kaká was subbed out of a game to make room for him.
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Thoughts on our grades after the Lions' big win over D.C. United? Hit up the comment section and let us know.