July was a short month, thanks to the two-week break for the Gold Cup; it also happened to be Orlando City’s first winless month since July 2015, going 0-2-1. It started with a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Toronto FC before the break, before picking back up with a home-and-home series with expansion side Atlanta United.
The potential rivalry saw the Lions give up points in the dying moments in back-to-back weeks thanks to goals from Hector Villalba. Orlando fell below the red line for the first time this year in July, currently sitting two points back of the Columbus Crew with a game in hand.
With crunch time looming in August and beyond, it’s time for The Mane Land staff to pick the goal, save, and player of the month for July.
Goal of the Month: Kaká vs. Atlanta United
This should come as no surprise even if there had been more competition. Kaká’s fantastic goal was a unanimous selection by our staff and what a goal it was.
It was a world-class strike that the Brazilian maestro pulled straight out of 2007. Against the run of play, Cyle Larin got on the end of a Joe Bendik goal kick and left it for the Orlando skipper, who took it first time. The ball not only managed to bend around Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, but skied into the top corner, leaving Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan watching helplessly.
It was one of the best goals scored in a purple shirt, let alone in July, and it helped Orlando snatch its only point of the month on the back of a gritty performance in Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Save of the Month: Joe Bendik vs. Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United)
Bendik managed to pull magic out of his hat like always deep into Orlando’s first clash with Atlanta. With the match still level at 0-0 in the 85th minute, Atlanta was threatening with numbers in Orlando’s end. Anton Walkes found the Paraguayan midfielder at the top of the box and Almiron sent a curler around both Jonathan Spector and Brandon Vazquez. Blind to the ball until the last moment, Bendik still managed to parry away the danger.
Player of the Month: Scott Sutter
The Swiss right back was superb in July, even though the Lions allowed five goals in three matches — with three of those coming in one game. He was consistently among Orlando’s best passers in July, attempting 97 passes and completing just over 80% of them and setting up several scoring opportunities. He was his normal self down the right flank and he needed to be with both Rafael Ramos and Kevin Alston sidelined due to injury.
Against two of the most potent offenses in MLS — Toronto and Atlanta — Sutter held his own on the right side, recording seven tackles, seven interceptions, and six clearances. Sutter has proven to be a revelation for City this season since his arrival from BSC Young Boys. Scott and Donny Toia on the opposite flank have been solid at fullback this season for Orlando City.
Jonathan Spector also garnered votes for this award.
Four matches are on tap for August, continuing the three-game road trip with matches away to the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls. Dom Dwyer gets his home debut against the Columbus Crew and then the Lions finish off the month in Orlando City Stadium against a resurgent Vancouver Whitecaps side with a familiar face in Brek Shea returning to visit.
As always, check back in at the end of the month for the staff’s selections and be sure to weigh in on our picks for July in the comments section.