Well, was that a fun night, wasn’t it? Orlando City managed to christen its new soccer palace with a grind-it-out 1-0 victory over NYCFC. It wasn’t the greatest performance from an Orlando City team, especially after losing captain Kaká within the first 10 minutes of the game. The team was able to persevere and hang on defensively to a shutout victory.
Now, without further ado, let’s talk some grades.
GK, Joe Bendik, 8.5 (MotM) – Once again, Joe Bendik saves Orlando City. Time and time again, the keeper came up with numerous big saves, including a breakaway stop in the 32nd minute on Alexander Ring. The 27-year-old also came up with a huge stop on Sean Okoli’s long distance shot in the 85th minute.
D, Will Johnson, 7.5 – While it wasn’t the position he usually plays, Johnson, normally a midfielder, did a really good job at fullback. There were times that Johnson was caught too far forward and had to scramble to get back into position, but he was very much able to do so. The Canadian came up with some big stops on the defensive end and put in a workmanlike performance. Kreis compared the team’s effort tonight to a "Will Johnson Performance."
D, Jonathan Spector, 7.5 – For his first game in MLS, Spector had a fantastic match. He led the team in clearances, with 14, led the team in aerial battles won, with four, and was the fifth-highest percentage passer for the Lions. He was constantly able to clear away danger with timely slide tackles and high pressing defense. Spector’s biggest moment came when he delivered a huge tackle in the 75th minute to stop a goal-scoring chance.
D, Jose Aja, 7.5 – The Uruguayan put in a solid shift along with Spector. He was third on the team in interceptions and third in clearances. He was also third on the team in total touches and second in long balls. Both he and Spector have seemed to form a good partnership and, while there are still kinks to work out, both of them looked solid against a potent attacking team.
D, Donny Toia, 7.5 – A fantastic performance on both sides of the ball, Toia seemed to be all over the left side of the field. He made some key stops on the defensive end of the field and also provided a boost down the flank on the offensive end. Toia did give away a ball in the 65th minute that almost turned into a goal, but he recovered well and knocked it away.
MF, Servando Carrasco, 7 – A good night for the defensive midfielder. Led the team in passing percentage and commanded the midfield with Nocerino. Played more of a reserved role in the midfield, with Nocerino playing higher up.
MF, Antonio Nocerino, 7 – The Italian, along with Carrasco, put in a good shift in the midfield. The fourth-highest passer on the team, Nocerino quietly held down the midfield and prevented a lot of play through the middle.
MF, Kaká, N/A – The captain looked poised for a massive game through the first 10 minutes, but the injury bug bit Orlando once again and Ricky was forced to come out of the game. You can read more about his injury here.
MF, Matias Perez Garcia, 7.5 – An offensive dynamo, MPG took the role of the offensive catalyst once Kaká was forced to come off. He led the team in interceptions, was third in total tackles and was third on the team in passing accuracy. His night ended when he came off in the 89th minute after cramping up.
F, Carlos Rivas, 6 – Despite not putting a ball in the back of the net, Rivas was credited with an assist on the only goal of the night, laying the ball off to Barnes who sent it in to Larin. Still, a better performance than we’re used to seeing from Rivas. He has a high ceiling and is looking to put it all together. Rivas put in a great ball in the 62nd minute to Larin, who couldn’t finish off the goal. He also had a good look at a shot in stoppage time, after putzing around at the top of the box for a bit, but it was deflected wide.
F, Cyle Larin, 6.5 – He scored the only goal of the night, but had chances to put in more. With chances being slim, Larin had opportunities to put the game away, but the ball got tangled in his feet too much. Was forced to come off in the 73rd minute due to cramping in both his legs.
MF, Giles Barnes (11’), 8 – Can’t really ask for a better debut, under tough circumstances. With no warm-up, Barnes was forced onto the pitch and with one of his first touches of the ball, he delivered a pinpoint cross to the back post to Cyle Larin for the only goal of the night. Barnes did a solid job on the defensive end as well, leading the team in both tackles and crosses.
MF, Cristian Higuita (73’), 6.5 – A typical Higuita night. Came in for the final 17 minutes and provided defensive depth and helped the Lions preserve the win. Also, no yellow cards.
F, Hadji Barry (88’), N/A– Had a good defensive stop in stoppage time, but other than that, he wasn’t in long enough to give a grade.
That’s how I saw tonight’s performances. Let us know what you thought below and be sure to vote for your Orlando City Man of the Match.