Who said Cyle Larin was out of gas?
The Canadian rookie finally captured the Major League Soccer record he's been chasing for weeks with the first of his three goals against the New York Red Bulls (14-9-6, 48 points) in Orlando City's 5-2 win at Red Bull Arena on Friday night.
Following a hat trick against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium back in July, Larin made his return to the New York metro area with another heroic performance, netting his second hat trick of the season, coupled with a pair of assists from Carlos Rivas, to lead the Lions to a massive road victory. The much-needed three points keep Orlando one point back of the Montreal Impact for the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
If you missed the first 15 minutes, then you didn't miss much. The two sides took the early part of the match to get a feel for things before turning up the heat. And that's when things got crazy.
Six minutes after Bradley Wright-Phillips had a dangerous free kick at the edge of the penalty area saved by Tally Hall, Larin opened the scoring with his first of three on the night in the 24th minute, finishing home a header off of a corner kick to put the Lions up 1-0, officially setting the MLS rookie record for goals in a single season in the process.
Orlando City (10-13-8, 38 points) was able to hold their lead for all of four minutes before Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty headed home his first goal of the season off of a set piece, diving home on the far post to level the score in the 29th.
In the process, Hines and two other New York players -- Matt Miazga and Lloyd Sam -- collided with, and destroyed, Hall in front of the net. It's unclear what happened to Hines, due to the lack of any real replays, but he was carried off of the field on a stretcher, forcing Heath to burn his first sub just over 30 minutes in, using it on Rivas, who would turn out to be the difference-maker for the Lions in this one. Rivas assumed left wing duties, sliding Brek Shea back to left back and moving Luke Boden to Hines' vacated center back slot.
Hines was starting because David Mateos felt something in pregame warm-ups and had to be a late scratch.
Rivas' first big moment came just before the end of the half in the 44th minute, sending a perfect through-ball in to Larin, whose clinical finish past Luis Robles put the Lions back in front in the wild first 45 minutes. In stoppage time, New York nearly leveled when McCarty headed one ball off of the cross bar, and moments later a Bradley Wright-Phillips header went off the right post, saving Hall once more.
The Lions carried the momentum into the locker room, and brought it back out with them to start the second half, picking up right where they left off with a goal less than a minute into play.
Moving with pace down the left side, Rivas sent another ground cross into the box to Larin, which was first met by Red Bulls defender Damien Perrinelle, whose touch went into the back of the net, extending Orlando City's lead to 3-1.
Surely that sealed things up for the Lions, right? Wrong.
After Kaká and Hall picked up yellow cards less than five minutes apart for silly infractions, Sam shook loose of Boden and pulled his team within a goal, finishing from just a handful of yards out to beat Hall to make it a 3-2 game after 58 minutes.
But Larin was still on the field, which meant there were more goals to come.
One more to be exact, as Larin finally picked up his hat trick with his 14th goal of the season, finishing off another impressive pass from Rivas, pushing the lead back to two goals.
Larin's last game against the Red Bulls, in case you forgot, ended with him seeing a red card for a tackle that was really not a tackle on Sacha Kljestan. And after tonight's game, it's fair to say that not only does he enjoy facing New York teams on the road, but Larin was able to avenge the red card with a stellar performance in New Jersey.
Bryan Rochez, who came on for Larin in the 76th minute, picked up his third goal of the season in the closing minutes of the match, finishing off a pass from Kaká to officially turn the lights out on New York's night.
It was a crazy game that saw Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch sent off in the 57th minute for dissent, much like Adrian Heath was dismissed in the first meeting between the two clubs. Crazy or not, Orlando City has now won three consecutive MLS games for the first time, fanning the flames of the club's faint playoff hopes.
Orlando City's next game will be another big one, as the Lions return home to host the team they're chasing -- the Impact -- at the Citrus Bowl next Saturday. The Lions will be without Cristian Higuita for the match, as the defensive midfielder picked up a yellow card in the first half, meaning he'll be suspended for yellow card accumulation.