Kevin Molino was not an All-Star, but Andrea Pirlo was.
Already putting together one of the better campaigns for a winger in MLS this season, Molino added to his impressive numbers with two goals and an assist, leading Orlando City’s comeback effort in a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution in front of 27,768 at Camping World Stadium.
With a win in Jason Kries’ Orlando City debut, the Lions (5-5-11, 26 points) picked up their first win in the month of July since joining MLS.
"Obviously very, very happy," Kreis said of his team’s performance on the evening. "The week of work the players and staff have put in was excellent. It was one of the best weeks I’ve ever been involved with in training sessions. To see that work culminate in a really good performance makes me extremely happy."
"It was a very good week of work, and a very good performance," he added.
New England (6-8-8, 26 points) was quick to expose Orlando City’s defensive flaws, striking a goal from the not-well-liked-in-Orlando Kei Kamara in the 19th minute. On a counter attack, Kamara picked up the ball along the right sideline and took it straight up the field to beat Joe Bendik for his fourth goal since joining the Revolution back in May.
The Lions spent the first 45 minutes at their same old game, putting together plenty of opportunities, but couldn’t find the final ball to fabricate many real chances.
Cyle Larin came close to putting the Lions on the board in the 27th minute, when a shot inside the box deflected of a defender and missed just inches from the near post.
The real breakthrough finally came in the second half when Kreis brought on Brek Shea to start the second half.
Not 60 seconds in, Larin beat Bobby Shuttleworth to level the score and pick up his 11th goal of the season. Molino assisted the play, adding his eighth of the year, sending the Canadian international into the left side of the box.
"I really don’t think it was about me, to be honest. I think it was about the players starting to learn what we were asking for," Kreis said about what impact he might have had on the team at halftime. "In the first half we just weren’t getting the numbers and right players involved into the attack.
"And so, to be at half time, to show them a little tactical adjustment I thought we could make in order to get more numbers involved in the attack, that made better chances for us."
Shea, who completed 93 percent of his passes and made a noticeable impact on the right side, assisted Molino on his go-ahead goal, a cross into the box that Molino finished off with a header to make it a 2-1 game in the 64th minute.
Shea had another great chance to add to the score in the 76th with a one-on-one against Shuttleworth before blasting the shot off the keeper — a chance he should have buried.
Molino doubled the scoreline for Orlando roughly 20 minutes later, basically putting the game away with goal No. 9, his second of the night, and ending any chance of another 2-2 draw between the two sides — a scoreline we’ve already seen twice this season, and three times since Orlando City joined MLS.
All things considered, Molino is making himself a strong case to put himself in the running for league MVP, carrying this team for most of the season — and much of it without the often-injured Kaká.
Speaking of, Kaká picked up his sixth assist of the season on the final goal, adding to what has been a productive season for the Brazilian captain, who is also putting together a fairly good season in his own respect given that he’s missed most of Orlando City’s game this season.
The win pulls Orlando even closer to climbing back above the red line, as even though the Lions are now tied with New England in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 26 points, the Revs still hold the first tiebreaker with one more win over Orlando. The Lions do, however, have a game in hand.
After a challenging last month for the club -- firing Adrian Heath, playing three straight road games under an interim coach, and now having to adjust to another new coach -- the Lions picked up a much-needed victory in terms of not only moral support but keeping themselves in the playoff hunt, as well.
"We you look at the spell we had, we had a difficult July month and to end it in such a great way and a great manner, but most importantly we must build from here," Molino said after the match. "And here is the point for us to keep our mindset and move forward collectively as a team."
The Lions will stay right here in Orlando to host the struggling Seattle Sounders next Sunday. Cristian Higuita will not be available for the Lions in that one after picking up another yellow card less than five minutes after coming on late in the match, meaning he’ll have to serve another yellow card accumulation suspension.