The rain, rain stayed away, and Orlando City got to play today.
Rolling thunderstorms before the match didn't stop Orlando City from rolling all over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night, as goals from Cyle Larin and Kaká helped Orlando City stay unbeaten in their last five home MLS matches (six in all competitions) with a 2-0 win in front of 23,372.
"I thought it was a magnificent effort from the guys considering four games in 10-11 days and the travel we've done," said Head Coach Adrian Heath in his post-game press conference. "To put the effort in that they've done and to work as hard as they've done to get the result was nothing short of fantastic."
For Kaká, it was his team-leading eighth goal of the season -- just his third from the run of play -- while Larin's was his sixth of the season, as the Lions shut out their opponent for the second consecutive match at home.
The Lions dominated possession in the early going, sticking above 60 percent throughout the entire first half. With that domination of the ball, they put Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin under pressure early and often. Larin got on the end of a Luke Boden cross but headed it high in the opening minute. Less than 10 minutes later, Lewis Neal put a diving header on frame, sending a soft shot into the hands of Irwin.
Two of Colorado's biggest chances in the first half both came on turnovers deep in the Orlando City midfield. First, Darwin Ceren in the second minute, whose mistake almost proved costly before Luis Solignac put a challenging shot on goal, but without much threat. Minutes later, a bad backwards pass by Sean St. Ledger gave Solignac another golden opportunity to put Colorado on the board, but was denied by a heroic Tally Hall.
Continuing to apply pressure, Orlando City's biggest weakness was once again the ability to finish on their build-ups in the final third. Kaká, who had a lackluster game against the Montreal Impact on Saturday, was hitting players left and right, and slipping past defenders, but nothing too dangerous was coming out of his early efforts.
While Kaká was back to his old tricks, Brek Shea continued to struggle all the way up until he was subbed off in the 38th minute. Shea, who according to Adrian Heath picked up a groin injury during the last USMNT trip, hadn't been himself for the past few weeks, and the apparent injury showed more than ever on Wednesday night against the Rapids.
Shea looked slow from the start, limping around the pitch gingerly, and very much out of sync on the offensive end. He was subbed off for Carlos Rivas, and probably won't see the field again for a few weeks.
If there was a game-changing moment in this one, it had to be Rivas coming into the fold. The Colombian winger immediately added pace and danger to the left side, teaming up with Luke Boden, who was already very active during the first half.
30-yard souvenir shots aside, Rivas set up Larin's game-winning goal in the 62nd minute. After receiving a pass down the sideline from Boden, he brushed past the Colorado defender and whipped a ball into the box that found Larin, who slotted it home for the goal.
Minutes later, he played the decoy on the left side while Cristian Higuita ran down the middle of the field beside him. Higuita opted to find Kaká flanking down the right. The Brazilian took on his defender and had no trouble slipping a shot past Irwin to make it a two-goal game.
Kaká's goal more than made up for a missed opportunity early in the second half, when the 33-year-old banked a shot off of the post that skipped in front of goal and out of play.
In the 77th minute, Hall came up big again, saving a close-distance shot on target from Dillon Powers, just another one of his efforts to preserve the shutout.
Climbing back to third place in the Eastern Conference standings with the win, Orlando City will get some time off from league play this weekend before hitting the pitch again next Tuesday, when they host the Columbus Crew in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup.
"It was a great response from the disappointment of Saturday night," Heath said.