We can enjoy half-off pizza today thanks to some late heroics from Carlos Rivas as he opened his scoring account in MLS. Also, we can actually go a full week without talking about the refs--which I'm very grateful for. In fact, I'd say Robert Sibiga actually was kind to the Lions when he could have easily booked Darwin Cerén a second time with some hard fouls after getting booked in the 24th minute and getting a talking to.
Things got nervy when Kevin Molino had to leave the match as well as when the Revs hit the post late. Overall, I think we're all glad to see the Lions come home with a point. Now, let's take a closer look and point out the five takeaways from the match.
Orlando City Will Only Go As Far As the Back Line Takes It
Let's be honest, after giving up three goals last match while looking bad, there was pressure on the team to get a positive result against the Revs. But it wasn't looking good for the boys in purple after conceding an early goal. The gaffer changed things up by keeping Redding on the bench and giving David Mateos his first start of the season. Even with making an adjustment, the Revs kept wreaking havoc on Orlando City's left side of the pitch. Brek Shea and Seb Hines gave up the goals and left Joe Bendik high and dry. With the team through several matches this season, it's time to reconsider the best place for Shea to play and after trading Aurélien Collin, there are even fewer options defensively. Something needs to be addressed if the Lions hope to make a run in the playoffs.
Joe Bendik Addition Is the Best Move Of the Off-Season
Eight matches into the season, Joe Bendik has been better than advertised. His play has allowed the Lions to walk away from matches, like the one in New England, with points. He hasn't had great support from the defenders in front of him, but there isn't one goal which can directly be put on Bendik.
His play is strong enough to consider him MVP of the team for the first quarter of the season. It's time to stop talking about last year's goalkeepers. Joe has earned the respect of the City Beautiful based on his level of play. If the team makes a move to improve the back line, Bendik should lead the team deep in the playoffs.
Depth Proves Its Worth
One of the biggest improvements for Orlando City from a first year expansion team to a second year team is the quality of depth. The players coming off the bench for Heath this season is much more talented than it was last season. When the subs make it onto the pitch like against the Revs, they can give a boost of energy to a team that looked flat for most of the second half. Servando Carrasco was active from the first minute he was inserted into the match and putting in Rivas and Baptista proved its worth with three shots on goal from the two subs, the one from Rivas being the equalizer. Last year, the Lions would more than likely not gotten results like this. Being able to get points even when you are not playing your best is the key to an improving side.
Kevin Molino Is A Difference Maker
No Kaká, no problem for this year's Lions. A big part of that has been the play of Kevin Molino. He was distributing the ball all along the left side of the pitch. His effort was rewarded when he scored his third goal of the season in the 30th minute and bringing Orlando City level before the half. It's good to have Molino on the pitch and if he can keep up his high level consistently, it's going to be a good year for the Orlando City attack.
Best Game From Cyle Larin Without A Goal
Larin didn't get on the score sheet, but that didn't mean the young Canadian striker didn't have an impact on the game. He was getting mugged all match, drawing attention from two defenders the whole night. He also got cheated out of recording an least one if not two assists because he looked to play a part in both goals. When the Lions went on the offense, Larin contribution allowed the Lions to draw the match.
There you have it, those are my five takeaways for the match. Leave me a comment and let me know where I was wrong and what I missed! Or, you know, what I did well.