It was a tale of two halves, as Orlando City lost Kaká to a red card near the close of the first half. Before the card, fans of both clubs were treated to two special goals, with the Lions striking first and early.
It looked like Real Salt Lake would score first, with Tally Hall turning back a close shot, only to see the Lions run and make a chance of their own a minute later. Kaká used perfect timing and a fantastic through ball from Pedro Riberio to lift all the fans back in Orlando looking for some fireworks on this Fourth of July match-up.
Real Salt Lake gave the 20,956 home fans something to cheer for with Tony Beltran's well-placed pass across the box, finding Sebastián Jaime for a header to bury it past a very in form Tally Hall.
The game changed completely when Orlando talisman Kaká received his marching orders for what is being called a "serious foul" on Morales. Just the second time in his career that Kaká has seen a straight red, and just the third time he's ever been sent off in his career. City fans will be curious to hear the thinking behind the sending off for sure. While he went in aggressively to take the ball back, the ill intentions of the stamp on Morales is very questionable.
Orlando came out aggressive in the second half, keeping Salt Lake on their toes and away from Tally Hall's goal for most of the start of the first half. The second half became an operation of efficiency, as Orlando successfully killed off the game in the last 20 minutes to hold on for the draw. Most of the grades reflect a team that did its best to hold on to a draw, on the road, in front of an impressive home crowd, and while down a man. Despite any grade the players get in this one, a sincere round of applause for holding on to this one, boys.
G, Tally Hall, 8.5 (MOTM) -- Unanimous choice among the people watching at my house, The Mane Land staff, and Real Salt Lake's broadcast announcers (watching on MLSLive). Hall had huge save after huge save, while keeping his back line steady throughout an onslaught of late attacks and near misses from Real Salt Lake. Not a lot he could do on the goal against, either. Hall is in fantastic form right now going into a key stretch of the season.
D, Luke Boden, 6.5 -- Good night for Boden without being a standout night. Thought for sure he would open his MLS scoring account in the second half, a goal that would only further endear the left back to the fans, but it took a deflection.
D, Sean St. Ledger, 7-- A hard-hat shift for the Irish international tonight. Combined with Hall and Hines to form the bulwark that frustrated Salt Lake all night long. A couple of crucial tackles and good man marking helped the Lions bring home a valuable road point. A little casual stepping up to guard the entry pass that resulted in the goal, but he could have also played is a lot worse had he been too aggressive. Oh, and he nearly scored the winner in the 63rd minute.
D, Seb Hines, 7 -- Really unlucky not to have hit the back of the net on beautiful header from a well placed Rivas corner. Active on defense, he and St. Ledger continue to find their chemistry. On the goal, his defense is hard to fault on a well placed header from a nice ball in. Once Collin comes back from injury, Orlando looks to have a potent three man rotation at the central back position.
D, Rafael Ramos, 6 -- Honestly, I think the grade of a 6 is a bit harsh for a player that didn't do too much wrong and helped the defense hold on for the road draw. Still, not much positive from Ramos tonight. His runs never seemed to materialize, while he looked desperate and lucky on defense. Still the youngster can be satisfied with his effort tonight.
MF, Lewis Neal, 5.5 -- Quiet night for Neal. Did what he needed to do to help the team hold the draw but never looked to do more than the minimum.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 4 -- Really rough night for Cristian. He earned his yellow card, and probably did enough over the course of the second half to earn another. Missed the ball and luckily the player in the box for what could have been lights out for Orlando on a wild sliding challenge. This will be a game to put behind him and hope he can call it a rough night and find the form he's had in the past few weeks again.
MF, Carlos Rivas, 7-- A solid performance from the speed merchant tonight. The complexity of the game after Orlando went a man down meant it would always be a challenging night for Rivas. Without his running mate Kaká in the second half he became the lone striker, swapping spots with Ribeiro. He fought hard and looked dangerous, but not as much as he has in the past few games. This game keeps his run of good form going, one that will need to continue with Kaká set to miss the next game through suspension.
MF, Kaká, 6 -- A tale of extremes for the captain tonight. His goal during the opening stanzas of the match was as beautiful as they come. The red card, only the third of his career, was a bit of a shock. The ref went for yellow first it seemed but changed his thinking to red after his linesman made him aware of a stomp to Javi Morales. Not sure of the intention, but either way the Brazilian had a short shift tonight and left his teammates to fight on without him at the end of the first half.
MF, Eric Avila, 7 -- Good shift for the midfielder, looked active and energetic. Stayed engaged once the game shifted in Real Salt Lake's favor. His play in the defensive end helped alleviate some of the constant pressure on the back line. He also can take some credit for the pass that set up the Riberio assist.
F, Pedro Ribeiro, 6.5 -- Set up Kaká with the perfect through ball for the goal, but not much else worked for Riberio on the evening. The aggressiveness and creativity were there, but he seemed to lack a bit of luck. After Orlando went down to 10 men he seemed to disappear in a more defensive midfield role.
M, Amobi Okugo (90'), N/A -- Heath kept an offensive set on the field despite the red card, meaning Okugo only saw minutes once the draw seemed the right result for the evening.
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So there we have it. Your Lions remain in the playoff hunt, but face a number of challenging games in the coming weeks with Gold Cup call-ups, key injuries, and now Kaká's red card. These will be the times that test this team the most.