Hustle, grit, grind and perseverance. These are some words that could be used to describe the performance Orlando City put in against the Montreal Impact to pull out a 2-1 victory at the Citrus Bowl (I know it's not called that anymore, but I'm not using that other name). Anyway, here are my five takeaways from the game.
First Half Woes
The first 45 minutes of last night's game were the most painful half of Orlando City soccer that I think I've ever had the misfortune of watching. The team couldn't build out of the midfield, the final third was apparently made of toxic lava, and the back line struggled to stop the Impact's counter attack. To add insult to injury (literally), both Rafael Ramos and Seb Hines had to come out due to knocks. Ramos apparently tweaked his hamstring and Hines re-aggravated his knee. In the end, I don't think anyone wants to see that first 45 minutes again.
Halftime Adjustments Changed the Game
As much flack that he's gotten, Adrian Heath deserves a lot of credit for the team's second-half turnaround. The difference between the play of the two halves was a big momentum shift in favor of the Lions and from what Heath said in the press conference, he got them to give it their all and put all their effort out on the field. Like I said earlier, the hustle, grit, grind and perseverance really pushed Orlando to get the eventual game-winning goal.
Kaká Is Everywhere
This game was probably the most involved I have seen the captain this season. He was everywhere on the pitch, coming back into the midfield to help push the ball forward, challenging the Impact back line after a ball went back to them, being in the right attacking positions to get chances in the box and just being a leader on the pitch in general. He was getting after his teammates, demanding more from them, which they delivered. Also, we can't forget the two assists he had to help Cyle Larin net his brace. Let's just hope that he didn't use up all his energy and has some left for Wednesday's game against the leaders of the East.
Kevin Alston > Rafael Ramos
Our own resident tactician Brent Petkus recently wrote asking if it was time for Rafael Ramos to hit the bench in favor of Kevin Alston. Ramos' short 34 minutes on the pitch today didn't really help his cause in terms of securing the starting job. Not only was he caught out a number of times not tracking back, but Nacho Piatti did him dirty on the lone Montreal goal of the night. With Alston in, the team looked a bit more solid defensively and, while it wasn't a great 56 minutes from the fullback (although Heath called his performance "smashing"), I think with some time training with the starters, he should look better. With Ramos likely out anyway due to injury, Alston should have the next two games to try and prove his case for the starting job.
Orlando City Finally Get Back to Winning
It's been almost two months since Orlando City won a game, but last night it finally got off the schneid heading into the Copa America break. Having been winless in six games, patience has been running thin with the team and winning usually quells the haters, if only for the time being. The Lions will have a tough game only three days from now, as they take on the East leading Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. Then, four days after that, they head back to Yankee Stadium to take on NYCFC, which just lost 7-0 to the New York Red Bulls. It's a tough week ahead for Orlando, but last night's win could help put the club in a good mindset going into this week.
Well, those are my takeaways from the match. Anything I may have missed that you noticed? Let me know in the comments below.