On Saturday another home match at "The Fortress" and another beautiful three points lifted Orlando City to 18 on the season. That's good enough to keep them atop the East table for at least another few days. At the risk of a takedown request from their respective labels, I feel compelled to suggest an Orlando City remix for the 2010 DJ Khaled hit that he created with T-Pain and several other top hip-hop artists:
All they do is win, win, win, no matter what
Got scoring on their mind, they can never get enough.
And every time they put one past the keeper
All the purple smoke go up
And it stay there; The Wall say yeah
And it stay there smoke bomb smoke bomb smoke bomb
Cause all they do is win, win win,
And if you scoring goals put your hands in the air, make 'em stay there!
This match extended Orlando City's record-setting string of home wins to open a new stadium to five, and it also extended another streak--marking the third meeting in a row between the two sides that Colorado has failed to score a goal against Orlando City. The goals came from two first-time scorers on the season in Carlos Rivas, who blasted a golazo from distance in the 70th minute and a deftly struck rebound by Kaka in the 91st after he came on in relief of Matias Perez-Garcia in the second half. And the match marked another well-deserved clean sheet for Joe Bendik and the much-improved 2017 Orlando City defense.
- Three Huge Points - The win temporarily pushed Orlando City's lead in the East out to five points, but a later victory by the New York Red Bulls saw them climb to 16 points to remain two behind Orlando City. And both the Red Bulls and Orlando City will play on Wednesday night in midweek matches against separate opponents, so the win was vital to make sure they would not lose their lead in the standings at the beginning of a stretch that involves 3 matches in 8 days (at Toronto on 5/3 and at Houston next Saturday).
- Rivas' First Goal of 2017 - Since early in the season, Carlos Rivas has been shooting the ball at the goal with extreme velocity and ferocity. Unfortunately, most of the time his shots have been off frame or directly at the keeper. And it has to start nagging at players after a bit if they keep shooting and never score. I think this goal today has the potential to be like the PK that Kevin Molino took early in the 2016 season, which just boosted his confidence and helped him go on to a double-digit scoring season.
- Quality and Depth of the Team - The biggest eruption in the stadium before the two goals was when Kaka came on the pitch at the 60th minute. And to have both goals come from subs today (and those subs be the quality of a Carlos Rivas and Kaka no less), it speaks to the arsenal of weapons that Jason Kreis has at his disposal going into this busy 8-day stretch. And in addition to Kaka returning to health, Jose Aja was also back in the 18-man lineup today and was available as a sub if needed.
- A Particular Set of Stats - A lot of the headline stats went the way of Orlando City today: they led in possession (55.2% to 44.8%), Passes completed and accuracy (401 / 81% to 328 / 79%), shots taken (14 to 3) and shots on goal (6 to 1). But there are some key stats that Colorado won, and it's a little troubling to me to see Orlando City give those up to the team at the bottom of the table. Colorado won the duels (52 to 48) and tackles (19 to 13), which often tells you which team is out-hustling the other team, and most of the time hustle will help you win a match. Fortunately today Orlando City was winning the right duels and the right tackles, so it helped get them to victory.
- Cutesy Won't Cut It - Orlando City had a few bad giveaways on the day (they happened infrequently enough to be noticeable) and they all resulted from players trying to get too "cute" with their passes. Gentlemen--please leave cute to kittens and baby rabbits: when you pass to a teammate, put enough pace on the ball to get it to them because you don't close down well enough with each other to prevent the opponent from intercepting and stealing the ball. Specific examples include a 23rd minute dainty little kiss of the ball by Barnes in the direction of MPG that got intercepted, and a 49th minute attempted exchange between Nocerino and MPG that had the same result. Just stop that nonsense now!
- Set Piece Finishing - Orlando City had 8 corners and only one yielded a goal, and that one indirectly. A .125 conversion average on the corners is not good enough when we have a finisher like Cyle Larin on the pitch. Lads when you deliver a corner I want you to aim for a spot 80 inches off the turf on the line connecting the two penalty spots five yards out from the mouth of the goal. Arc the ball, curl the ball, drive the ball, or scoop the ball there. Put it where someone on the team can get their forehead to it and ricochet it into the goal. I saw corners fly all the way across the face of the goal, never get higher than a fourth grader's knees, and these silly little short corners that never amount to anything in any league. Kick the corners correctly and kick them consistently and we'll see a much higher conversion rate.
- You Call This April - Summer is here, folks. It was 90 degrees plus mid-afternoon yesterday as the match got started, and I'm a little surprised there were no hydration breaks mandated for the match. In the stands there were ample chances to get to shade and find a place where the breeze blows through the structure of the stadium to provide some natural cooling, but on the pitch it had to be brutal. And ironically when I watched the replay, the UDN English-language commentators were saying that it was 31 and snowing in Colorado at the time the match started. Fortunately there is only one more 4:00 pm home match left, and that's on the final day of the season when all MLS teams kick off at the same time.
The Week Ahead
I saw a lot of conjecture by fans on social media that Carlos Rivas was being "punished" for not finishing his shots by being pulled from the Starting XI yesterday. But I think week ahead must play at least as much a role as any "punishment." Orlando City is entering its first multi-match week of the season, and the Rapids game marked the first of three matches in eight days--playing at Toronto FC on Wednesday and then again at Houston Dynamo next Saturday night. Jason Kreis needs to manage his lineup to make sure that his players remain fresh over all three matches. I would not be surprised to see Cyle Larin, Giles Barnes, and possibly even Jonathan Spector left out of the Starting XI for at least one of the matches upcoming in order to give them a bit of a rest. Of course, sending Rivas a message could be part of coach's thinking in leaving him out of the starting lineup, and if so it seemed to have worked. I just think it's a bit reckless for ignorant fans to ascribe their personal frustrations with a player to the motivations of a coach, and I don't want to see any nonsense about players being "punished" on Wednesday or next Saturday if they are left out of the Starting XI. It's likely more a factor of players needing rest during a very busy week of matches.
What were your thoughts on the match? Do you think that Orlando City can keep up its current pace of winning in the week ahead? Do you believe that Rivas' first goal will open a floodgate of scoring? Do you think that Kaka's return will mark a surge in the scoring for Orlando City? Let me know in the comments below!