Orlando City started the Jason Kreis era off with a bang.
After trailing 1-0 at the break, it was nice to see the lads in purple take it to the Revolution in the second 45 minutes and earn a much-needed 3-1 win. As we bask in the glow and get set to welcome the Seattle Sounders this Sunday, here are five things that we learned from a feel-good victory over an Eastern Conference opponent:
Kreis Wins in his Orlando City Debut
With Adrian Heath and Bobby Murphy both drawing in their first match at the helm of Orlando City, it wasn’t a stretch to think that Kreis would do the same. After all, the Lions were playing the Revolution, against whom they had previously fashioned a trio of 2-2 draws in their four meetings prior to last night. But the same old script simply wouldn't do. Kreis, who told reporters after the game he just wanted to try to enjoy his first match as Orlando's gaffer, said he made some tactical changes to get more players into the attack and it worked.
"In the first half we just weren't getting the numbers and right players involved into the attack," he said. "And so, at halftime, 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."
The Lions made the most of those better chances in the second 45 minutes and put three behind Bobby Shuttleworth.
Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino: Still Good
Larin scored his 11th goal of the season to get the comeback started last night, finding the net just a minute into the second half. With 11 goals on the year and 13 matches remaining, Kid Fantastic appears to have an eye on a new career high in 2016, following his 17-goal rookie campaign in 2015. About one every other match on average would just about do it, but the way Larin is playing, can a multi-goal game be far off? He nearly had one last night, scuffing a good early chance and missing the net by less than a foot later in the first half.
Meanwhile, Molino has three goals and three assists over his last three matches, including last night’s brace and a helper. The Trinidadian often is overshadowed by teammates like Larin, Kaká and Brek Shea, but if Joe Bendik hasn’t been the team’s MVP this season, it’s got to be The Original.
Defensive Midfield Changes
One of the big surprises on the team sheet was the absence of defensive midfield partners Darwin Ceren and Cristian Higuita in the starting 11, although both played a role in the late stages of the game. Instead, Kreis went with Servando Carrasco and the much-maligned Antonio Nocerino as his starting pairing and he was rewarded for his decision with good performances from both.
"The players I chose I thought had stronger performances on Wednesday night against Stoke City," Kreis said after the match. "I want to evaluate the players from what I see in the week’s worth of training and make decisions for the lineup based on what they’ve done in the week. And so I wanted to reward the players that I thought had performed a little better than the others."
Kreis praised Nocerino in his postgame comments, calling the Italian "a player, I think, that took particular interest in what we were trying to do tactically. And he's taken a particular interest in organizing the players around him. I'll be frank in telling you I didn't come here last week thinking that he would start this weekend. I clearly did not. But he's a player that in the training session on Tuesday and the match on Wednesday, and the training session again on Friday, earned his spot. And I think we got a really nice performance out of him."
One wrinkle we saw last night was right-footed Kevin Molino stay on the left side when left-footed Brek Shea entered the match for surprise starter Hadji Barry. Kreis is known to favor inverted wingers but the new gaffer said that wasn’t what prompted the positioning of Molino and Shea in the second half.
"I don’t know that that was a conscious effort on my part to do that," Kreis explained. "Kevin has been playing on the left side the past couple matches and I think he’s done quite strong from there. I think the relationship between him and Luke Boden defensively has been good and so I wanted to leave him in that same spot.
"Hadji really earned a starting position with his performance on Wednesday night against Stoke. So I didn’t want to change Kevin to the other side just because Brek was coming in and clearly I like when wingers can come inside and combine and find strikes. So it made sense to leave Brek on the right from that aspect as well."
The seventh month of the season has been miserable to Orlando City since joining Major League Soccer. The Lions got their first MLS win in the month of July -- ever -- in last night’s 3-1 victory over the New England Revolution. It was also the first win over the Revs in five tries, which is a nice bonus. The club was 0-3-1 in July of 2015 and Orlando finished July of 2016 just 1-2-3, finally getting a win on the last day of the month. The combined July total of 1-5-4 is an ugly blemish on the face of the team, but hopefully the Lions can put it behind them, and quickly, because Orlando City went just 1-3-2 in August of 2015. OCSC will need a much better August this year if there are to be playoff games in the works for 2016.
Those are my five takeaways from last night’s match. What did you see? Please share below.