Orlando City SC beat Puerto Rico in the final game of 2017 and Kaká’s final game as a Lion, 6-1. It’s not the score that matters, though, but the meaning of the game. All funds from the match will go directly to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, and 8,231 fans packed the lower deck of Orlando City Stadium.
“I think the benefit for Puerto Rico and the fact that we could contribute in some small fashion was hugely important,” said Head Coach Jason Kreis after the match.
Kreis sent his team out in a different look. Earl Edwards Jr. was the only goalkeeper dressed. In front of him was a back four of Kevin Alston, Tommy Redding, Jonathan Spector, and Donny Toia. PC took on an attacking position, and Antonio Nocerino, Will Johnson, and Richie Laryea joined him in the midfield. Kaká played in his final game in purple with Dom Dwyer up top.
“To be part of Ricky’s last match in this stadium was really, really important to me, and something that I’ll remember forever,” said Kreis.
It was a sloppy first half from the Lions, with many turnovers, and Puerto Rico took full advantage of it. Redding turned the ball over leading to a chance, but Spector came to the rescue. A few minutes later, it was Spector’s turn to turn the ball over. The center back tried to make a pass across the field and David Cabán intercepted it. One-on-one with Edwards, he had no trouble at finding the back of the net in the 19th minute.
It took 20 minutes for Orlando to find the equalizer. Kaká kicked a long ball from midfield to Dwyer. The U.S. international took one touch to trap the ball, picked his spot, and powered it inside the back post.
Classic lefty smash from @Ddwyer14! #VamosOrlando pic.twitter.com/sscw67Q5K3— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 5, 2017
To start the second half, Kreis made eight changes. Of the starting XI, only Edwards, Kaká, PC, and Redding started the second half, and Cyle Larin, Dillon Powers, Hadji Barry, Seb Hines, Rafael Ramos, Pierre Da Silva, and Servando Carrasco all came on.
The Lions came out flying and had a couple of chances early on. It was Larin who gave Orlando its first lead of the match in the 59th minute. Off a service from Powers, Larin easily found the back of the net and put the Lions up 2-1.
Net poppin' #VamosOrlando pic.twitter.com/DkEucbQhQ9— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 5, 2017
In the 64th minute Kaká made way for Tony Rocha. The captain gave a hug to every player before coming off to a standing ovation.
“When I went off the field tonight and I saw all the supporters and everybody, saying something or giving me something is something that makes me very, very happy,” Kaká said.
In the 69th minute, The Wall had a moment off silence for supporter Joesph Campo, who died in an automobile accident early this week.
“To honor the fallen supporter is really important,” said Kreis. “We in this club believe that our fans are not just fans. We believe our fans are part of our family. It saddens all of us that a tragedy like that has happened.”
Barry honored Campo too by finding the back of the net and putting the Lions up 3-1 in the same minute. Off of a short corner, PC took the shot, and Barry redirected it beyond Puerto Rico goalkeeper Matthew Sanchez.
Sniped from three yards out. pic.twitter.com/CtKZgaosME— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 5, 2017
Hines got himself on the score sheet as well. In the 79th minute, Larin headed the ball across the goal off of a corner. Hines scored from close range to increase Orlando’s lead to 4-1. A few minutes later, Rocha got in on the party, too, adding to the Lions’ lead and making it 5-1.
In the 90th, the Lions got a sixth. Ramos made some nice moves, running through the defense before giving it off to Larin. The Canadian passed the ball into the back of the net for the final goal of the match and put Orlando up 6-1.
"Just tap it in" -Chubbs pic.twitter.com/jClhwmAVeF— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 5, 2017
“For me this game was incredible because of the cause,” said Kaká. “It was fun but it was not just about the soccer game. People in the country need our support right now and we try to do our best tonight and help the people in the country that really, really need it.”
Orlando City played much better in the second half than the first and was able to settle down and control the game. The score line looked awful for the visitors, and indeed Puerto Rico did not play well, but everyone left the field wearing smiles after a game for a good cause.
“I know that anytime I want to come back I’ll be welcome,” said Kaká. “Being a part of this community was incredible for me. When I came here, the community of Orlando just knew about basketball or American football. Now, after three years, I know that a lot of people here in Orlando love soccer as well, so this is something that makes me very happy.”