Orlando City SC was certainly the better side last night in a 2-0 win over Colorado Rapids. The Lions led in shots (20-10), shots on goal (7-4), possession (56.8%-43.2%), passing accuracy (84.5%-75.9%), open play crosses (23-11), and duels won (45-39). If not for a goal post and the stellar play of Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin, the score line could have dwarfed the 4-0 drubbing that City put on the LA Galaxy a few weeks ago.
"Overall, I thought we were worthy winners," said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the game.
Kaká bounced back from a rough game in Montreal and returned to form, leading all players with seven shots and four on target, scoring his eighth goal of the season and being a danger man all evening.
What did we learn from the match? Here are my five takeaways from a fun but rainy night at the Citrus Bowl:
For several weeks, fans have voiced their displeasure with Colombian Designated Player Carlos Rivas, who has had a habit of taking long, off-target shots and basically trying to do too much in whatever playing time he's gotten. Last night we saw the same Carlos Rivas that Adrian Heath scouted at Deportivo Cali. With a couple consecutive weeks of training finally under his belt for the first time since arriving stateside, Rivas showed the quality and talent to go along with all that raw speed.
"It's a start for (Rivas), but the kid has lots of qualities," Heath said. "He's had a difficult start, there's no two ways about it. I was really pleased for him because he did some of the stuff that we know he can do and I just hope this is the start for him. Everything's moving in the right direction."
From the moment he came on in relief of Brek Shea (more on that later), Orlando City was a more dangerous and dynamic attacking force. He took his customary long blasts at goal, but Rivas also found guys in space and made a mockery of Colorado defender Joseph Greenspan, often taking a touch and getting three yards behind the Rapids right back before he could turn. Rivas's bending cross was perfectly placed for Cyle Larin's opening goal and his movement off the ball gave Cristian Higuita plenty of space to find Kaká on the right for the second score.
"He brought his pace into the game," Larin told me after the match. "He's been playing very well and it's just a matter of time. Now he's getting confidence and on nights like today he did a lot for us and set up my goal."
He left with a knock to the ankle late in the match but seemed to be walking OK in the locker room afterward.
Build the Wall for Tally Hall
Well, maybe Tally Hall doesn't need the wall. He singlehandedly kept the Lions in the game early stopping two good chances in the first six minutes by Colorado forward Luis Solignac. The first chance came off a Darwin Ceren turnover and Hall was able to smother a shot from the Argentine in the second minute of the game.
Four minutes later, it was Sean St. Ledger giving the ball away and Solignac was free and clear on Hall, who made the save to deny the Rapids the early goal. Tally wasn't done. Dillon Powers shook free in the second half and Hall was again there to deny the shot, finishing with four saves.
"That's what good goalkeepers do, they keep you in games," Heath said.
It's no coincidence that City has lost only one match since Hall's return. The Renton, WA, native has shutouts in his last two home matches.
Maybe...Don't Play Hurt Guys?
Brek Shea was injured. We all knew it. Heck, Jurgen Klinsmann left him off the USMNT Gold Cup roster because of it. Adrian Heath alluded to it on Tuesday's Coach's Show that Shea was nursing some kind of groin knock. So it makes no sense to me that he'd risk his left wing's health on a wet field after serious pre-game rains drenched downtown Orlando.
Sure enough, Shea's condition worsened late in the first half after a series of knocks and he had to be subbed off for Carlos Rivas in the 39th minute. It's unknown at this time how long Shea will be out of action but Heath said Tuesday night the club planned to have him see a specialist after the Colorado match.
Hopefully the decision to play Shea didn't cause a long-term absence.
Striker Cyle Larin and midfielder Darwin Ceren both looked rusty at Montreal on Saturday and that didn't change much last night, especially in the first half. Ceren had at least five terrible giveaways, and picked up enough rough challenges to walk right up to the yellow card line without crossing it. Larin had trouble getting involved in the first 45 minutes and muffed a chance in the first minute to put Orlando City ahead.
However, both players responded in the second half. Ceren still had a couple really shaky touches after the break, but he made life difficult for the Colorado midfield to keep possession, working in tandem with Higuita. Larin made no mistake on the Rivas cross, slotting home past Clint Irwin.
Unfortunately, Orlando is losing Larin soon to the Canadian Gold Cup squad and Ceren to El Salvador's.
Citrus Bowl Becoming a Fortress?
The Lions are unbeaten in their last six home matches in all competitions, dating back to a 3-2 friendly victory over Brazilian side Ponte Preta on Saturday, May 2. Orlando City is 4-0-2 in those matches, coming back to draw New England and Columbus, and earning wins over Ponte Preta, LA Galaxy, D.C. United, and Colorado.
Now that the dog days of summer are upon us, opponents seem to wilt in the second half of games on the sweltering artificial turf of the Citrus Bowl. The home field advantage of Orlando may be finally starting to emerge, after early results went wanting.
Next up: Columbus Crew SC next Tuesday night in U.S. Open Cup play.