Another Friday without Major League Soccer means another look into the past to reminisce on the days when Orlando City SC was still playing games. Today we rewind the clock all the way back to May 21, 2016 — four years and one day ago — and a home match against the Montreal Impact at Camping World Stadium. Both teams came into the game badly in need of a win, with the Lions mired in a six-game winless streak.
The Lions started in a 4-2-3-1 that saw Joe Bendik in goal; Rafa Ramos, Seb Hines, David Mateos, and Brek Shea at the back; Cristian Higuita and Servando Carrasco in the two holding midfielder spots; Adrian Winter, Kaká, and Carlos Rivas in the attacking midfield; and Cyle Larin leading the line. The Impact meanwhile also lined up in a 4-2-3-1 that featured Evan Bush at goalkeeper; Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman, Wandrille Lefevre, and Hassoun Camara in defense; Marco Donadel and Lucas Ontivero in holding midfield; Ignacio Piatti, Johan Venegas, and Kyle Bekker at attacking midfield; and Dominic Oduro up top.
Things did not start well for Orlando. Just four minutes into the game the Impact broke the Orlando press and got the ball into the final third. The defense backed off and by the time Hines stepped to the ball Ontivero was able to pass out wide to Piatti. The Argentine took a few touches, cut onto his right foot, and then fired a deflected shot past Bendik and into the net.
Just like that the Lions were 1-0 down and their fortunes didn’t look to be changing anytime soon as the first half was largely dominated and dictated by the Impact. Orlando seemed frustrated and disjointed for large swaths of the opening 45 minutes, something that probably wasn’t helped by losing both Ramos and Hines to injuries before 40 minutes had been played. Other than a Kaká header that missed to the left on 25 minutes, the Lions didn’t have many good chances for most of the first half.
Fortunately that changed just before halftime. With 42 minutes gone, Orlando was awarded a free kick on the left wing. Kaká whipped in a flat cross with his dangerous right foot, and Larin managed to flick the ball on with the back of his head where it nestled low into the side netting of the far post.
It was a wonderful cross that was well-deserving of a goal, and with the rest of the first half mainly consisting of physical play and fouls, it was enough for the teams to go into the break tied at 1-1.
Things were better for the men in purple after the restart. Larin had a decent chance to volley from a cross several minutes in but seemed to slip as he hit it and the ball skewed wide. Ciman missed with a header several minutes later, and the game began turning into a much more open affair.
OCSC had a golden chance to go ahead on 55 minutes. Kaká played Larin in behind the defense and after Bush made the questionable decision to advance out of his box to challenge the striker, Larin rounded him and just missed with a shot from a very acute angle. The second half as a whole was much livelier, and only a string of good saves from Bendik and Bush prevented the scoreline from changing.
After 87 minutes the deadlock was finally broken. Higuita crossed to the top of the box for Kaká, who chested the ball on to substitute striker Julio Baptista. The big Brazilian played a delicate chip forward for Kaká, who got on to the end of it and squared for Larin to fire into the roof of the net, sending the home supporters wild.
Several minutes later Rivas missed left with a shot from a tough angle and aside from some long balls lumped forward and some fouls, that was the last significant action of the match, as the Lions took home all three points. It was a much-needed win for the good guys, stopping the aforementioned winless streak and helping the team gain ground in the Eastern Conference.
We here at The Mane Land named Joe Bendik the Man of the Match with a grade of 9/10 after the Lions’ keeper recorded six saves, including some very difficult ones to keep the team in the game. Other high performers were Larin with an 8.5 and Kaká with an 8, and you can find the full grades for the game here.
That’ll do it for this week’s Flashback Friday. Do you have any memories of the hard-fought win against the Impact four years ago? If so, be sure to drop them in the comments and I’ll see you guys next week.