Orlando City had a tough task going out to Colorado to play the league’s stingiest defense in the thin Rocky Mountain air. But the Lions responded by playing outstanding team defense and earned a much-needed point to send the team above the red line, at least until D.C. United and New York Red Bulls play on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital.
While three points is always better than one, a nice traveling contingent from Orlando visited Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and saw their side hold the Rapids scoreless while nearly nicking a late game winner on chances by Cyle Larin and Tony Rocha. The way the team had been conceding goals, it was a nice first step toward righting the ship for the stretch run and a good way to open a stretch of three games in nine days.
Let’s get to tonight’s grades.
GK, Joe Bendik, 6 - Joe didn’t have to work as hard as usual, as the Rapids got only one of their 13 shots on frame. But he was aggressive coming off his line to challenge for balls in the air and generally did what he needed to do in earning his third clean sheet of the season. While it’s hard to give him a high score for what he had to accomplish, it’s still a shutout and he kept his back line -- featuring two new starters -- organized. He didn’t put a foot wrong but he didn’t have many opportunities either.
D, Mikey Ambrose, 6.5 - Making his first MLS start, Ambrose played a solid if unspectacular game at left back. He handled the defensive end very well, getting into passing lanes, forcing his man back toward the top of the box, and grabbing a few key takeaways on the sideline. He was cautious going forward and didn’t involve himself much in the offense, but that’s OK. He is a defender first and an attacker second and tonight reflected that. He tied Jose Aja for the team high in interceptions (5), blocked two shots and connected on 82.7% of his passes. A bright start for Mikey.
D, David Mateos, 6 - David made several one-on-one defensive plays that kept the Rapids from generating excellent scoring chances. It started in the 18th minute, knocking the ball out for a corner off of Marlon Hairston and dispossessing Eric Miller in the 34th. Was fortunate not to be sent off in the 65th minute, sacrificing himself to take down a streaking Kevin Doyle. What likely saved him is Doyle not having possession and the hustle of Servando Carrasco who may have been able to get into the shooting lane by the time Doyle tracked down the ball. Made a great play in the 72nd minute to break up a counter. Finished with 88.9% passing accuracy, three tackles, four interceptions, four clearances and two blocked shots.
D, Jose Aja, 6 - A solid start for the Uruguayan, who struggled in passing a bit (77.4%) but made five interceptions and four clearances to help keep the sheet clean. He did get beat to a cross by Kevin Doyle but thankfully the glancing header was off target. Picked up a booking for kicking the ball at an opponent and that will be worth watching this week considering Antonio Nocerino’s suspension for the same infraction, but Aja’s looked far less intentional.
D, Kevin Alston, 6.5 - One of Kevin’s better defensive games in a while, he finished with an interception and three clearances and generally did a nice job of limiting Marc Burch’s effectiveness on the flank. He passed at an extremely efficient 90.2%, one key pass and two of his three long balls were accurate on a night in which he was conservative in the attack, just as Ambrose was on the other side.
MF, Antonio Nocerino, 7 (MOTM) - The Italian continues to grow more confident as he sees more minutes and that is translating into instinctual running to spots where he knows he should be. He beat Doyle to a ball in the 42nd minute and earned a free kick. He hustled back on defense all night and still managed to be part of the attack. His two tackles, four interceptions and a clearance on defense paired nicely with his 86.9% passing accuracy, one key pass, one accurate cross and a shot (well off target, however). On a night where a lot of players turned in similarly solid performances, Nocerino’s two-way play and his team high 78 touches earn him the nod from me.
MF, Servando Carrasco, 5.5 – Servando continues to hustle and work hard, which is going to earn him minutes, but his passing was a bit off on this night. His percentage was 81.4% doesn’t seem so bad, but none of his four long balls or three crosses were accurate. He was dispossessed once and gave up a very dangerous set piece in the second half before being subbed off. To his credit, he did head the free kick behind for a corner.
MF, Kaká, 5.5 - While it wasn’t a terrible night for Kaká, it was hardly one of his best. Credit Colorado for surrounding the Brazilian all night and making his life difficult, but he was also hampered a bit by playing next to Julio Baptista (more on him in a minute). The captain completed a low (especially for him) 78% of his passes, coughed up the ball twice, and shot off target in his lone attempt at goal. Neither of his two crosses or his two long balls were accurate.
MF, Julio Baptista 4.5, - The Beast is officially not a midfielder. With Kevin Molino unable to play and Matias Perez Garcia coming off a quad injury, the Brazilian started in the middle of the attacking midfield, although he and Kaká swapped spots a few times. He looked slow to 50/50 balls all night, completed only 68.2% of his passes, and touched the ball just 36 times before being replaced by MPG in the 62nd minute. He did make three interceptions and draw three free kicks, but he just didn’t seem to link up well with his teammates.
MF, Brek Shea, 5.5 - Although he still didn’t provide the kind of performance Orlando City needs out of him on the offensive end, Shea was better tonight than the last two games. He got both of his shots on target but unfortunately both were straight at his USMNT teammate, Tim Howard. His help on the defensive end was much better tonight than we’ve seen recently, blocking crosses, making clearances and stealing the ball twice. His passing rate of 83.3% was an improvement as well. Nearly sent in Cyle Larin in the second half but couldn’t quite clear Axel Sjoberg. Took a yellow card for the team by delaying a quick Colorado restart on a throw-in.
F, Cyle Larin, 4.5 - Kid Fantastic had a rough night. Although he worked hard, the service to him was largely nonexistent due to the stifling Rapids defense. He managed just 32 touches, got neither of his shots on target and led the team in bad touches (5). He passed at a 61.5% clip and only drew one free kick. About the best thing he did was work hard. His hustle earned a corner at the start of the second half and he certainly put in the work. It’s just that the service in to him was cut off and it took him out of the game. Still, he could have been a hero had he gotten his late shot on target in the 78th minute. He may also have been able to set Shea up for a tap-in with the right pass on the play.
MF, Matias Perez Garcia (62’), 5.5 - While MPG was an instant upgrade over Baptista, he didn’t get much accomplished in about 30 minutes of play. He did complete 92.9% of his passes but he didn’t have a key pass, or connect on a cross or a long ball. He drew only one foul.
MF, Tony Rocha (70’), 6 - The young midfielder completed all 17 of his passes after subbing on for Servando Carrasco and had a late chance to be a hero, stepping into the attack and firing just wide of the post in the third minute of stoppage time. Another solid outing for the former OCB player.
D, Tommy Redding (75’), 5.5 - The Homegrown Player came on for a cramping Aja for the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time and helped his team keep a clean sheet. He only completed 66.7% of his passes but he’s hurt by a small sample size (six total passing attempts). He finished with two tackles and a clearance in a solid if unspectacular appearance, coming into a difficult situation.
That’s how I saw the performances from tonight’s match. Who stood out to you, both good and bad? Please vote for your Man of the Match in the poll below.