When the Orlando City Lions walked off the pitch Sunday night with a 1-0 win over Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United, it was more important than just any three points. This was three points against the kingpin of the Eastern Conference. Three points against a team that had ripped points from their grasp in two previous meetings -- meetings that led to heartbreak and binge drinking.
Not this weekend.
This weekend, the purple-clad lads took three points from the District, and did it in front of over 30,000 lunatics at the Citrus Bowl.
Which Lions see their stock rise and which see their stock fall after the big win?
Lewis Neal - For a man who had been unceremoniously crowned the most boring player on the club, Neal turned in a thrilling performance Sunday night that left many wondering just who the hell was out there wearing the number 24 shirt.
My personal choice for man of the match, Neal played the role of holding midfielder masterfully, controlling possession and making minimal mistakes, providing a great example for his young central midfield counterpart, Cristian Higuita.
Without doubt, this was the performance of the year so far for Lewis Neal. Hats off to him.
Luke Boden - One half of the Killer Bees was an absolute terror for the United defense all night long, working with Brek Shea on the left side to wreak havoc after the defense over-corrected to the right to shore up Rafael Ramos' attack.
With Brek playing more narrowly to the center, Luke had more space to roam forward and play his crosses into the box. Look for Adrian Heath to employ this strategy more often moving forward as he gets creative in finding ways to make up for the absence of Kevin Molino.
Amobi Okugo - This was supposed to be the game Okugo reclaimed his starting spot in the defensive midfield. Instead, Neal took his spot and turned in a five-star performance that looks to have taken Okugo further away from the starting spot that was his to begin the season.
With Higuita, Darwin Ceren, and Neal all turning in fine performances recently, it could be a while before we see Okugo reclaim his regular spot in the starting 11.
Eric Avila - It's not that Avila played an outright bad game. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to say that about any of the Lions Sunday night. What would be easy to say is that this was not Avila's best performance.
We've come to know what to expect of Avila, especially with Ramos consistently pressing up the right side to get involved in the attack. However, when gifted a short corner in the 51st minute, Avila did nothing to challenge United keeper Bill Hamid. In a game full of quality performances, that's enough to see your stock drop.
This week, we see Orlando City take on the Charleston Battery in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play before making the trip to Montreal to make an Impact. Will Boden and Neal be able to keep their momentum running hot? Can Amobi Okugo find his way back onto the pitch and into the good graces of Inchy?
Check this space next week to find out who rises and falls.