It’s been two weeks between games for Orlando City following its season-opening win on March 5, but the Lions picked up right where they left off. Orlando took care of things on the strength of two Cyle Larin goals against the Philadelphia Union with a 2-1 victory at Orlando City Stadium.
The Lions (2-0-0, 6 points) have picked up wins in their first two matches for the first time in their three seasons in MLS, while the Union (0-1-2, 2 points) remain in search of their first win of the new campaign, thanks to Larin, who has taken off to start the season with a brace to add to his opening day goal.
“Another night where I’m pleased with the commitment, the work rate, the togetherness, and the passion of the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match.
Kreis kept things similar between matches, going with almost exactly the same starting lineup as he did against New York City FC. The only change was putting Giles Barnes in for the injured Kaká.
While the Lions struggled to hold possession against NYCFC, that was not the case tonight against Philadelphia as Orlando dominated possession at halftime (64% to 36%), and finished with an overall advantage in the match (52% to 48%).
“We talked about it after the last game. We thought the effort and defensive work were fantastic, but what we did with the ball wasn’t good enough,” Kreis said. “So it was a focus for us this week. We talked about different ways we might be able to possess the ball better, and I think we accomplished it to a certain degree. I still think we still have quite some room to go with what we’re doing with the ball.”
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned so far since the start of the preseason, it’s that Carlos Rivas and Larin make a good duo up front. The pair connected yet again for the Lions’ only goal of the first half, with Rivas finding Larin on the far post in the 39th minute to put the Lions up 1-0. Jonathan Spector sent a sensational ball into the left corner for Rivas, who got to the end line and cut it back to give Larin an easy finish.
Orlando took the lead into halftime, but the Union leveled shortly after the break when C.J. Sapong scored off of Fabian Herbers’ deflected cross, beating Joe Bendik to make it a 1-1 game 52 minutes in.
The Lions weren’t deterred, and came back to re-take the lead in the 73rd minute, when Larin found his second goal of the night — third on the season — to put his side up 2-1. Rivas, who isn’t officially credited on the goal, flicked a pass backwards to Matias Perez Garcia, who hit Larin with a ball forward that he would take to beat Andre Blake.
“I think, first and foremost, it’s about the work rate and commitment that Cyle has put in to take himself to a new fitness level,” Kreis said. “He’s able to play a little bit different way than he did last year, and I think, as I always said, I enjoy seeing people that work hard get success. It’s pleasing to see Cyle get a couple of goals.
“His partner up there deserves a couple as well. So I wouldn’t want to make any comments about the forwards without saying how important Carlos Rivas was to the performance as well.”
Several thousand hearts might have skipped a beat in the closing moments of the match, as Philadelphia pushed forward to equalize. In the 93rd minute, when a ball off a throw-in fell perfectly for Ilsinho, who ripped a shot off the left post that bounced back across the goal line and back into play. Roland Alberg then nodded a headed shot at Bendik, who made a huge save in front of the net to preserve the lead and the three points.
Pierre Da Silva also made a bit of Orlando City history on the night, when he became the club’s first academy product to go through Orlando City B and then make his debut with the MLS club in the 88th minute, coming on for a cramping Rivas.
The Lions go back into hibernation next when the FIFA international break comes around. They’ll return to the pitch on Saturday, April 1, when they travel to MAPFRE Stadium to take on the Columbus Crew.