October ended on a high note for Orlando City even though it started with the club being officially eliminated from playoff contention. There were only three matches this time, but it was the first time the Lions recorded multiple wins in a month since June and the first time they finished with a winning record since March. City managed to score six goals and only allowed three, which is impressive for this defense.
Any speculation of playoffs in year two was dashed with a crushing 1-0 loss at home to the Montreal Impact. Talk around Orlando's camp immediately moved to the off-season and preparation for 2017, which meant players fighting for roster spots. The result was two satisfying victories over playoff teams in Philadelphia and D.C. United. The offense and defense came to play in Chester as the Lions won, 2-0, but it was an offensive masterclass in the last match for Orlando City at Camping World Stadium when they romped, 4-2, over D.C.
The season may be over for Orlando City, but there's a lot of good to take away from the final three games of 2016. So The Mane Land staff has come together to select October's best goal, save, and player for Orlando.
Goal of the Month: Kaká vs. D.C. United
The offense was firing on all cylinders for the last two matches of the month and it was a difficult decision to choose just one. Five different Lions scored Orlando’s six goals in October, and even Cristian Higuita was able to add a rocket to the far post to the team’s tally. But Kaká was able to do it all himself against D.C. United and he’s earned our Goal of the Month.
Midway through the first half on Sunday, Orlando already held a 1-0 lead and was looking for more. Kaká did all of the leg work for this goal, receiving the ball just past the midfield stripe and taking it the distance. Sean Franklin was no match for the Brazilian superstar, who beat him with pace to get behind the D.C. defense. From there, it was a simple chip past Travis Worra to double the Lions’ advantage.
Save of the Month: Joe Bendik on Chris Pontius
If not for a wayward back pass from Seb Hines, Joe probably keeps Orlando’s goals allowed for the month to two. Like all season, he’s done all he can behind a patchwork back line. He managed to keep a clean sheet in Philadelphia as the Lions went up to play spoiler, but it wasn’t easy.
Carlos Rivas had given City the lead less than 10 minutes prior and the Union were pouring on the pressure looking for the equalizer. Fabian Herbers sparked a counter down the wing and the Union had numbers against the Orlando defense. His cross couldn’t quite find Tranquillo Barnetta but it bounced favorably to the lurking Chris Pontius. Pontius fired a point-blank header that Bendik was able to parry off the line at the last second. It was Philadelphia’s best chance of the night, but Bendik was there to save the day again.
Player of the Month: Júlio Baptista
This subject was one of contentious debate for the staff. Several players came on strong in the last few matches of the season that warranted a potential selection for Player of the Month. Cristian Higuita made the most of his chance back in the starting XI, contributing to both the attack and defense. Fellow Colombian Carlos Rivas looked like a new man as a striker. Matías Pérez García continued his stellar form as a play-maker in the middle of the park. But in the end it came down to La Bestia, who led the Lions in goals with two, both of which came off the bench.
Baptista filled all of the roles he was brought in to do this month. He was the epitome of firepower off the bench with both goals coming in just 33 minutes of total action over the last two matches. He did a great job adding to the attack in Montreal as well, giving the Impact defenders another threat to cope with. We hope Júlio will be back in Orlando next season because his experience and ability in a limited role is vital to the team’s continued success. Six goals from a bench player is a luxury Orlando did not have last season.
Be sure to leave your thoughts on our winners in the comments below. The season may be over but our content certainly isn’t. We’ve still got awards for the season as a whole as well as individual player breakdowns coming your way. So check back early and often throughout the off-season.