The Lions entered the Bronx looking to earn their first win of the season against New York City FC in a nationally televised match. Orlando City was facing a few questions coming into the game, still without captain Kaká, but the team rose to the occasion under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. Enjoy your Saturday with half-off Papa John's pizza.
There were so many positives and negatives coming out of the match. Did all the questions get addressed? Here are the five biggest takeaways I took from the match.
Cyle Larin is a Dangerous Striker Even Not Fully Healthy
Okay, so the odds of scoring another hat trick in New York weren't going to be likely with the whole league focusing on the Canadian international. Defenders are trying to be as physical as possible against Larin, but he just naturally knows where to be to score. In the off-season, Cyle worked hard to add muscle and improve conditioning. So far, the results have paid off, even when feeling under the weather, as Head Coach Adrian Heath stated as the reason for taking him off in the 55th minute. If healthy, he likely would have put away some of the opportunities Carlos Rivas created for Pedro Ribeiro. Cyle is making the sophomore slump into a myth. Hopefully, Larin returns from his national team stint healthy and ready to take on the Timbers.
Joe Bendik Earns Some Respect
Having to replace Tally Hall, Bendik came into the season with a lot of doubts from the Orlando City faithful. He didn't exactly shine at home in the Citrus Bowl for the first two matches, where the Lions ended up with two disappointing points against beatable opponents. With NYCFC holding 66% of the possession, 12 corners, and six out of 12 shots on target, keeping a clean sheet is huge. Bendik started the match slipping twice early in the match on the grass, but he settled down to get a result for the team. He directed his back line to a solid performance, which leads me to the next point.
Tommy Redding Proves He Belongs On The First Team
The level of play Tommy Redding displayed was outstanding. He was so impressive against David Villa and company that the UniMas broadcast team went so far as to call out Jürgen Klinsmann during the broadcast to pay attention to Redding for the senior national team. The 19-year-old was man of the match in our player grades, with three clearances and four interceptions. Tommy will head to join the U-20 U.S. team at the Dallas Cup, but when he returns Heath will have to make a difficult decision when selecting the starting center backs against Portland.
Brek Shea Quiet In The Bronx
In a night where Redding shone, Brek Shea put in a journeyman performance. He didn't do anything spectacular to stand out, even with five clearances, five interceptions, and five recoveries. He just didn't look right, and the level of expectation on this team for him didn't line up. Shea didn't contribute to the offense at all, but that might have been the game plan going in, with Khiry Shelton patrolling his side. Hopefully, he bounces back when the Timbers come to town. And speaking of disappointing performances...
Kevin Molino Hasn't Lived Up To The Hype In MLS
Molino has been so frustrating to watch this early part of the season. He was fantastic in the preseason, but so far that hasn't translated into a regular season MLS match. Kevin had been given the benefit of the doubt due to the absence of Kaká, but Molino continues to take an extra unneeded touch on the ball. It should be criminal to miss scoring a goal with the NYCFC net left open. There's no other answer but to say Molino has the yips. Relax Kevin, we love you and know you can do it. Now, just show the rest of the world.
Hopefully, the time off will allow the Lions to come back in April completely healthy. Once all the parts and pieces the Lions have are on the pitch at the same time, it should really give everyone to cheer about.