The decision to take the FIFA international breaks off was going to be a popular one with fans, however, unfortunately, MLS has a compact schedule and it doesn't always pay off. So that meant Orlando City had to face Ignacio Piatti and Didier Drogba with two key players missing, but that didn't matter and that is a good thing and shows that the Lions may have finally turned a corner.
No Larin, No Molino, No Problem
With Canadian forward Cyle Larin and Trinidadian midfielder Kevin Molino missing through international duty, everyone's expectations were that this team was going to struggle. Especially when you consider those players had accounted for 22 of Orlando City's 41 goals this season coming in. However, it appears that Kaká grabbing his second brace of the season in the Montreal win, Young Designated Player Carlos Rivas grabbing his second goal of the season, and Brek Shea chipping in a goal, meant our fears were unfounded.
Aja/Mateos is the Defensive Combination We've Been Waiting For
Despite an early foul by José Aja, which led to the Montreal goal from Didier Drogba's free kick, Aja and David Mateos were a resolute partnership in front of Joe Bendik and have certainly been a contribution to Orlando City's growth this season. We are putting it down to them speaking the same language. (I choose to negate the PK foul given on Mateos by referee Silviu Petrescu, as it was soft and a complete "even-things-up" call).
The importance of Mateos was also reinforced in the 80th minute when he was removed for Seb Hines, at which point Orlando completely lost its defensive shape and should probably continue to pray to thank the soccer gods that they didn't end up conceding under a Montreal barrage.
Bendik Continues to Prove his Worth
Joe Bendik is certainly to blame for the lack of a clean sheet yesterday when he once again tried to punch rather than catch, but his overall game performance meant that Orlando City left with some points to show for its efforts. He had a fantastic stop on Drogba in the 39th minute and a PK save on the Ivorian in the 70th. The goalkeeper has been integral in keeping Orlando within touch of the red playoff line and I am sure he feels good to see that the team is currently above it.
Carlos Rivas. The Real Deal?
So, even I am shocked that I wrote that, but last night the young Colombian Designated Player was responsible for two assists, the drawing of a penalty and subsequent sending off of Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush, and he even found time to notch his second goal of the season. This is the same young man who looked like he was going to be on his way out of Orlando under Jason Kreis, as he just couldn't get minutes -- even off the bench. However, yesterday it was a situation of cometh the moment, cometh the man, and Rivas did what needed to be done and showed why the Orlando front office has stuck with him. Time will tell whether or not Rivas is the man to support Larin up front, but that performance certainly won't have hurt his chances. He finally played like a Designated Player.
Kaká is Back to his Best and Kreis Should Get the Credit
The Brazilian may not have been able to help Orlando's fortunes earlier this season, however, since his return from injury and under Kreis' leadership, Kaká now has four goals in two games and is playing with a greater freedom not seen under Adrian Heath. What is also important, though, is that Kreis is willing to take off his captain. His predecessor wasn't. Kreis is protecting his aging talisman because he realizes that the MLS season is long and arduous, and it is fantastic that we have eventually acknowledged that MLS isn't like other leagues. It is a league of its own with its own tempo and rhythm, and we are starting to play to its beat.
Well, those are my five takeaways from Orlando City's shellacking of the Montreal Impact. Let us know in the comments section your thoughts and takeaway from yesterday's game.