Well, that was a fun win and I’m sure we’d all like to see a lot more of that next season. Orlando City possessed the ball in the attacking half, created many good scoring chances and finished plenty of them in a 4-2 win over D.C. United on Decision Day. And it could have been even more lopsided than that, as Kevin Molino hit a post and missed a header just wide, and Carlos Rivas whiffed on a half volley try with an empty net to shoot at.
Still, it was an outstanding result and the Lions finish the season feeling good after beating two playoff teams in the final two matches of the season by a combined 6-2 score. Now begins the process of Jason Kreis molding this team into what he wants it to become.
But first, let’s give out our final match grades for 2016.
GK, Joe Bendik, 5.5 – With only three shots on target and two goals allowed, this would usually not be a very good grade. However, Joe had zero chance on the first goal, which came off essentially a two-on-nobody after perhaps the worst back pass in Orlando City history (more on that later). Kennedy Igboananike’s goal was a freaking rocket and also didn’t allow Bendik much of a chance to stop it. Ultimately, United wasn’t a very dangerous team overall in this game and Joe didn’t have much of a chance to show his stuff, for either good or bad.
D, Mikey Ambrose, 6 – A solid day for Mikey, in my opinion, with one chance created and a lot of creativity shown in his combination play up the left side with Kaká and others. His 71.7% passing rate could have been better, and he had no accurate crosses on four attempts and only one accurate long ball out of five. He also forced Seb Hines to cover a lot of ground early in the game as he got caught upfield a couple of times. Still, there were way more positives than negatives and he has a lot of upside. Finished with a tackle, a clearance, and two interceptions.
D, Seb Hines, 4 – Folks will point a lot of fingers at Seb after this game, and rightfully so when you consider the world’s softest back pass that was nominally intended for Joe Bendik but essentially gave United its first real lifeline in the game. Hines started the game wobbly, but had to cover a lot of space (see above review for Ambrose). Defensively, which is the primary job he has, Hines did OK. He had two clearances, two interceptions, and one tackle. He gave away a free kick early with a clumsy foul, though. He and Jose Aja did a nice job of moving the ball and keeping Orlando from being penned into their own end.
D, Jose Aja, 7 – On a team-high (tied with Hines) passing attempts, Jose completed 83.6% and won nearly everything in the air. He led the team in touches (76), interceptions (3), and clearances (3) and tied Cristian Higuita for the most tackles (4). His towering headers turned balls into the Orlando box into throw-ins for the opposition. He had only one nervy giveaway in the second half, but he immediately won the ball back. Good day for Aja although it could have been better had Igboananike not gotten the better of him for the second D.C. goal. Kennedy has done that to a lot of defenders though.
D, Rafael Ramos, 6.5 – Over the past two games, Rafa hasn’t shown us much we haven’t seen before. He’s been effective moving forward but has had issues here or there on the defensive end. Ramos completed 97.5% of his passes and was a fluid part of the offense, assisting on Molino’s opening goal. His habit of sneaking in behind the United defense created problems for the opposition all game. He got beat badly by Julian Buescher on Igboananike’s goal but he was limping noticeably at the time and was subbed out just afterward for Kevin Alston, so injury probably played a role in that. His biggest issue is his crossing accuracy, as Rafa was 0-for-5 in that department. He finished with a tackle, two interceptions and a blocked shot.
MF, Antonio Nocerino, 7 – Another very solid game for the Italian, who completed 90.7% of his passes, kept United moving laterally instead of straight down the middle of the pitch, and broke up play on D.C.’s few attacks. Five of his eight long balls were accurate, and he finished with three tackles and two interceptions. The main difference between Nocerino now and at the beginning of the season is that he understands the system and not only where he should be but also where his teammates belong. You can see him confidently directing the players around him.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 8 – What a game for Cristian. The young Colombian notched his first goal and assist of the season, completed 93.% of his passes, made a team-high four tackles, and was his usual pesky self all over the field on defense. Jason Kreis said he wanted Cristian to move up behind the attacking midfielders during play and that paid off big for Higuita in this game. Also…no yellow cards.
MF, Kaká, 8 – The maestro of the midfield had a vintage performance against United. His long ball to Ramos set up Molino’s goal and gave the captain a hockey assist. He had a regular assist later on Higuita’s goal and made Sean Franklin look like a traffic cone to score a goal of his own in the 21st minute – a gorgeous shot off the inside of the back post. He created four chances and completed 82.6% of his passes. His lone blemish may have been his unselfishness, as a couple of his passes were easily cut out when he could have instead shot on target.
MF, Matias Perez Garcia, 6.5 – MPG was robbed early on a shot that should have been a goal if Travis Worra hadn’t channeled his inner Bill Hamid. That was one of two shots for the Argentinian. He passed accurately (90.9%) and had his usual hustle but seemed to disappear at times. He had only one tackle but no unsteady touches. He didn’t draw as many fouls around the box as usual. Just a solid outing.
MF, Kevin Molino, 8.5 (MOTM) – The Trinidadian put on a show in an effort that showed definitively that he wants to be a part of this club in 2017. In addition to his 13th-minute goal, he hit the post in the 56th minute and had a few other chances just miss the target. His four shots and five chances led all players in the game and he had a passing accuracy of 81.8%. He was clicking with everyone around him all game long and was a bit unlucky not to at least score a brace. He also played solid defense, with a tackle and two interceptions. His hustle was noticeable.
F, Carlos Rivas, 6 – The Colombian striker did a lot of things well in this game but finishing wasn’t one of them. He missed a bouncing pass from a Molino pass in the 52nd. He then was sent in on a beautiful dummy by Molino in the 68th minute when just one simple touch would have had him in past Worra on an empty goal. But Rivas did a good job of wreaking havoc with his speed and spreading the ball around to help develop the attack rather than take on multiple defenders by himself. His passing accuracy of 68% doesn’t look like much until you compare it with what we’ve seen out of Cyle Larin when deployed as a lone striker the last few weeks. He continues to try his customary long shots with predictable results.
F, Cyle Larin (69’), 5 – The Canadian came on for MPG but didn’t have much impact on the game other than to worry the back line a bit. He registered only one shot (off target), took only 10 touches, and completed just two of his four passes. Did nearly score on a cross that was cut out at the last second in the 80th minute when Ambrose sent Kaká down the left and the captain squared a ball into the six-yard box.
F, Julio Baptista (75’), 7 – The Beast made an impression in his 15 minutes. He took a pass from Higuita and blasted a goal that took a slight deflection off Marcelo Sarvas in the 89th to cap the scoring. Tried an audacious bicycle kick off a corner in the 84th that would have made for a spectacular goal but he didn’t get all of it. A minute later he nearly snuck in a shot to the near post that caught side netting instead. He completed all three of his passes and his seven touches were nearly as many as Larin had in six fewer minutes played.
D, Kevin Alston (81’), N/A – Kevin entered for a limping Ramos and didn’t have much time to make an impact. He did register one tackle but completed neither of his two passes. With the Lions on the attack for most of his time on the pitch, there wasn’t much involvement for Alston.
That’s the way I saw Orlando City’s individual performances in a 4-2 season-ending win over D.C. United. Please vote for your player of the game below and let me know how wrong you think I was in the comments section below.