The wait is over for Orlando City SC. After a rough start to the season, with only one point won in their first three MLS matches, the Lions battled through to get their first win since last September as the team defeated the New York Red Bulls, 4-3 at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday.
Here are our five takeaways from the match:
Dom is Back and He Scores When He Wants
Orlando City couldn’t count on several important pieces in the first few weeks of the 2018 MLS season, but arguably none of them was as missed as Dom Dwyer. In his first match of the year, the striker was vital to the team’s first victory with a brace and all his energy. Dom’s presence inside the box is nearly irreplaceable and despite some understandable lack of match rhythm, he showed his sharpness with a couple of first-touch finishes that found the back of the net.
Another Different Lineup
For the fourth time in four matches, the Lions have sent a different starting lineup to the field. The start of the year has been tough for Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis, with several players injured early in the season. This weekend, Jonathan Spector and Oriol Rosell were the ones unavailable for selection, but, on the other hand, Dwyer was cleared to play for the first time in 2018. The lineup used against the Red Bulls was the closest to the considered ideal by many so far, with only the injured Spector and Rosell missing the cut, besides Josué Colmán, who started on the bench and joined the game later.
Kljestan Shows Well Against his Former Team
Facing his former team for the first time, Sacha Kljestan did what he used to do with a New York Red Bulls’ shirt. The midfielder, who wore Orlando City’s armband in the absence of Spector, had a secondary assist on Will Johnson’s goal, starting the play by releasing Justin Meram into the box. He was originally credited with a primary assist on a Scott Sutter game-winner, but the goal was correctly changed to Colmán. Sutter then got an assist and Kljestan’s was removed. The veteran, though, was not as sharp on the ball as he usually is, recording only 72.7% in passing accuracy. Considering it was just his second match with the Lions and the importance of the goals he helped the team to score, it was a positive match for Kljestan.
Redding and Rivas Do Little Against Orlando
While Kljestan played the Red Bulls for the first time, defender Tommy Redding and forward Carlos Rivas, who were involved in the trade that shipped the midfielder to Florida, returned to Orlando City Stadium to play the Lions. Redding had some solid defensive numbers, registering four interceptions, three clearances and two tackles, but he was poorly positioned on Dwyer’s second goal. Rivas did even less to help the Red Bulls offensively, recording only two shots and a below-average 61.1% passing efficiency, drawing a couple of offside flags, and putting one of his patented sky balls high into The Wall, which drew a big cheer from the crowd.
A Victory is a Victory, but Don’t Get Excited Yet
It’s obviously great that Orlando was finally able to get in the win column in the MLS table, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. It was a home game against a shorthanded New York Red Bulls team, which didn’t start at least six of its regular players, is set to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals Wednesday and was one man down in the final minutes. Still, this was more or less the New York lineup that crushed Portland. As in the last few matches, the Lions had ups and downs, but a reaction needs to start at some point and hopefully it could be this match.