Coaches talk about "winning the games you're supposed to win" all the time, and that is exactly what Orlando City did against the hapless Rapids on Wednesday night. In a match book-ended on both ends by intense thunderstorms, the Lions cruised to a 2-0 win on the soggy Citrus Bowl turf.
Cyle Larin continued his amazing year for club and country with his sixth league goal of the season, while Kaká also found his way onto the score sheet -- and not from a penalty! -- for his team-leading eighth goal of the year.
It wasn't all clear sailing for Orlando though, as keeper Tally Hall came up with two massive breakaway saves to keep the Rapids off the board. The buzz around the stadium was all about the young Colombian Carlos Rivas though, who earned his first MLS assist and changed the game when he entered for an injured Brek Shea.
Here are are Player Grades for the match:
G, Tally Hall, 8.5 -- Tally's been good since he's entered the Orlando City starting XI, but tonight may have been his biggest single contribution. He stopped Luis Solignac 1-on-1 in the 6th minute, and later denied Dillon Powers in the 78th. This match could have easily been a 2-2 draw without those two point-blank saves.
D, Luke Boden, 7.5 -- Despite playing his fourth match in 11 days, Boden may have had the biggest impact of any Lion in the first half. He controlled the ball going forward, even with Shea clearly hurting, and nearly set the Lions up for a goal in the first minute.
D, Sean St. Ledger, 5.5 -- It's hard to find too much fault in a 2-0 shutout, but St. Ledger did have a couple shaky moments. Most notably, he lost the ball in the sixth minute to give Solignac the breakaway, though the ball was passed to him in a bad position.
D, Seb Hines, 7 -- Predictably quiet night for Hines against the Rapids, who bunkered, looking for the tie from the get-go. Was fine in the air when he needed to be, though the Rapids rarely threatened outside of the two breakaways.
D, Rafael Ramos, 7.5 -- Another great night for Ramos. Yet again, he was the spark plug the offense needed in the second half. He had back-to-back crosses in the 51st and 54th that maybe should have been scored by Larin and Kaká respectively, and set the pace for City in the second half. As always, his motor was incredible and he goes full-speed for 90 minutes. His track-back sprints in the final 10 minutes remind me of Michael Bradley.
M, Cristian Higuita, 7 -- A classic Higuita performance; bundles of energy with the occasional disappointing turnover. Made the right pass on Kaká's goal and earned his first MLS assist for his efforts.
M, Darwin Ceren, 5 -- The El Salvadoran has been great lately for Orlando City, but tonight wasn't his best effort. He had three or four dangerous turnovers, including a 78th minute gaffe where he tripped over the ball to leave Dillon Powers in free on Hall. While he failed to create too much in the attacking end, he did complete a huge number of passes in the midfield. We'll chalk it up to fatigue from his international duty last week, and expect him to be back in form next week.
M, Brek Shea, 4.5 -- Clearly not 100% from the opening whistle, and it only got worse as the game went on. Subbed off in the 39th, after a hard-to-watch performance. The biggest question about Shea on the night is why Head Coach Adrian Heath chose to play the Texan in the first place.
M, Kaká, 8 -- For a while there, it looked like it might be another tough night for the captain. He was stuffed by Clint Irwin just before the half, and he missed a sitter off the post in the 54th. He finally turned things around later in the second half though, and was rewarded for his efforts with a goal to put the Lions up 2-0 at 65'.
M, Lewis Neal, 6 -- A pretty quiet night for Neal, who had been a revelation since reentering the starting XI last month. He could have done more with Kaká's ninth-minute cross, and he blasted a decent chance a mile over the bar just before half. His creativity still stood out at times too.
F, Cyle Larin, 7.5 -- Another game, another goal for Cyle Larin, who's making a legitimate run at one of the best rookies seasons in MLS history. His runs served as good outlets throughout, and he was in the right place to bury Carlos Rivas' pinpoint cross in the 62nd minute. Who needs Podolski/Chicharito/Drogba when we have Larin?!
D, Carlos Rivas (39'), 8 (MOTM) -- Perhaps this was finally the breakout game for Rivas? Sure, he scored three goals in the U.S. Open Cup match last week, but they all came from the penalty spot. Came on late in the first half for an injured Brek Shea, and terrorized the Rapids' back line for the remaining 51 minutes. His inch-perfect cross set up Larin's opener, and his 50-yard run freed up space for Higuita and Kaká to operate on the second.
M, Pedro Ribeiro (69'), 6.5 -- Very quiet night for Ribeiro. He was subbed in for Larin to get a fresh body up top to hold the ball and waste the clock, but even up 2-0, Orlando was still able to control possession in the midfield to kill the game. Almost set up Eric Avila for a goal in the 90th.
F, Eric Avila (90'), N/A-- Entered for Carlos Rivas in stoppage time.