For the first time in more than two months, Orlando City looked like the playoff team many expected it to be in mid-June.
Adrian Winter scored his first and second goals in an Orlando City uniform, Bryan Rochez scored the first MLS goal of his career and Brek Shea returned to action to a raving ovation and added an assist as Orlando City defeated Sporting Kansas City 3-1 at the Citrus Bowl.
"Obviously delighted that we got a result. I thought we deserved it," Head Coach Adrian Heath said after the match. "I thought we started really, really well. When I look at the full 90 minutes, I thought we deserved the win."
Orlando City (8-13-8, 32 points) got its first goal by an Orlando City player in 526 minutes in the third minute of the match when a Luke Boden free kick found its way to the far post and Winter beat Sporting KC backup keeper Jon Kempin with a header. It was the first match in 10 games in which Orlando City scored first, and was the first MLS victory for Orlando City without star midfielder Kaká.
Sporting KC (11-8-8, 41 points) keeper Tim Melia was out with an injury he sustained in Wednesday's match at Portland against the Timbers, but it's doubtful he could have gotten to Winter's strike.
Two minutes later, Carlos Rivas sent a dangerous cross into the box for Cyle Larin, whose shot deflected to Lewis Neal with an open net, but Neal missed wide.
Orlando City took its 1-0 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Always dangerous on the counter, Sporting KC leveled the match with a Krisztian Nemeth goal in the 59th minute. Nemeth received a pass from Benny Feilhaber and took it into the box, eking past Aurelien Collin and finishing an unstoppable shot into the top right corner.
After more than two months of playing without Brek Shea, City welcomed its winger back to action in the 61st minute and he immediately made his presence felt when he received an accurate long ball from David Mateos and found Rochez with a short cross right in front of goal that the young designated player finished for his first career MLS goal.
Rochez checked in for a fatigued-looking Larin in the 51st minute and continued his run of solid play, which may grant him a few more opportunities to get on the field, with Larin seemingly cooling down from his hot start. The Canadian had a team-low 13 touches in the first half and Adrian Heath said he looked "leggy" after returning from Belize on Wednesday.
"We expected Cyle would be tired," Heath said. "He's never played this long in his career and certainly with this intensity. He's been away all week with the traveling to Belize. I just felt that he looked a little bit leggy for the first time. There wasn't that zip in his legs. We just thought that it might be a good chance for Bryan to come on and give us a lift, which he did"
With Shea out, Orlando City won just one game, and, upon his return, the team looked considerably looser and more dangerous going forward, even without star midfielder Kaká, Darwin Ceren and Corey Ashe.
Winter found the back of the net again in the 72nd minute with a nice bit of work between Rochez, Neal and the Swiss winger. Rochez outworked the SKC defense to retrieve a loose ball and fed Neal, who received his first assist on the season when he slipped a ball through defenders to Winter, who finished near post.
Winter was a menace for Sporting KC's defense all evening with a high work rate and creative runs that have been lacking for Orlando City in recent months.
Much was made of hometown boy Graham Zusi's return to Orlando, as well as teammate Dom Dwyer's, who was an Orlando City player during the club's USL days.
Zusi had one real chance on goal in the game and his shot hit the outside of the net. Dwyer battled Aurelien Collin all evening to no avail before he eventually was sent off with a red card in the 87th minute, aided by a bit of an acting job from Mateos.
The loss extended SKC's winless streak to four matches (0-3-1), and snaps a winless streak of six games for the Lions (0-4-2). It is the fifth win for Orlando City against a Western Conference team (Houston, Portland, Los Angeles, Colorado and Kansas City).