Today we're starting a new feature on the blog to recap the tailgate from the previous home match. Yesterday's tailgate was the first one of the season where Mother Nature played a role, dropping a brief but intense rain shower an hour or so before the match. Luckily, it didn't interfere with the festivities, and more importantly it did not put a damper on anyone's spirits before or during the game.
Over in the Gallery you can find pictures from the tailgate, including a picture of Buster, who was the unofficial mascot of yesterday's pre-game festivities. We cooked on the small grill yesterday, using the charcoal to give the food a little better flavor. Our menu was a big hit, and we had a good turnout for the meal. We even had a visit from some new friends in the Ruckus and a couple of Colorado Rapids fans dropped by to say hello. One of them was Jason Maxwell, who writes the View from the Couch blog about Colorado Rapids soccer. We talked a little bit about the Beautiful Game, the 2015 season (very little about that), and the different experiences we have had as bloggers interacting with team leadership.
Jason has been at his craft for a number of years, and he has seen several coaches and front office folks come and go, and it was insightful learning about how the relationship of the team to the fans changes with each new front office or head coach. At the moment I love the way we are treated as fans by Coach Heath, Phil Rawlins, and the rest of the Orlando City staff, so I hope there are no changes for a long time to come.
Rain Come and Rain Go
Clouds had been visible in the distance for a while, but around 6:15 they started to close in a little on our position in Lot A. So we quickly packed up our gear and put it in the car, then jumped into the vehicle ourselves around 6:30 as the rain began to fall. We were just in time to hear a nice interview that Jim Phillips had recorded with Kaka and Phil Rawlins. But as is typical with a Florida storm, the rain didn't last long, and before 7:00 pm we were back out of the car and simply debating whether we wanted to take rain gear into the stadium or not. Ultimately I decided on my rain jacket but left my rain pants in the car. As it turns out I needed neither, but I felt better having the jacket just in case, as once or twice during the match the clouds threatened to close in.
The Match: Tale of Two Halves
When the match started, about 30 minutes late due to the weather delay, it began in a way I've never seen. They dispensed with the fireworks and the national anthem and simply kicked off the game to get started. The change in routine seemed to mess with the Orlando City mojo, for they spent the first 45 minutes of the match displaying the same listless and lifeless lack of energy that characterized the debacle in Montreal on Saturday night.
Aurelien Collin's absence in the defense seemed to make a huge difference, as Tally Hall was called on way too many times for my liking to make saves in the first half as our defenders got out of position and didn't have Collin's experienced signal calling to help them all be in prime position on the pitch to defend Colorado's attacks.
And it was clear from early in the match that something was bothering Brek Shea. He was limping a little bit every time he slowed to a walk, and when he hit the ground, he was slower than usual to get back up. While it was sad to see him have to go off before the half, I wasn't surprised when Coach Heath made the change. If truth be told, I have a feeling there was no snub by USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann in not naming Brek to the team this time around--I think it was simply for Brek's own health that he didn't ask him to try to go this round.
Aside from the missing Collin and the hobbled Shea, I was just not a very happy fan the whole first half with the sloppy passing and the cheap giveaways. The Rapids have not shown themselves to be a very good team in 2015, but our lads spent much of the first half giving them chance after chance to build up an attack or a counter-attack against our goal. The statistics will show that we held the ball a high percentage of the half, but as I said in my last match recap, I'm beginning to think possession is a bit of a red herring stat in MLS. If you never possess the ball in the attacking third of the pitch and you don't have any shots on goal, you could possess it 90% of the game and it would be meaningless.
Toward the end of the first half, Orlando City finally started to seem to get a little life, but the first 45 ended in a nil - nil draw. The second half, however, was a different story.
In the second half, Orlando City seemed like they were a little more alert and hungry to win. Maybe Coach blessed them out at the half or maybe he promised them all milk and cookies if they won. Whatever he did, it seemed to work. The possession began building toward more meaningful attacks toward the Colorado goal. In the 54th minute Kaka struck a magnificent ball toward the near post from the right side of the pitch, but the ball hit the post and spun and curled all the way across the face of the goal before trickling out of play for a goal kick on the far side. It was a nice feed into the captain from Ramos, and the ball was struck with pace, but someone from the Orlando City grounds crew had put just a coat or two too much paint on the goalpost for it to become a score.
Carlos Rivas finally seems to be getting his timing down on his blazing runs toward goal, for in the 61st minute he raced up the left side to beat two defenders and passed the ball across to Larin, who blasted it into the net for his sixth goal on the season.
And just a few minutes later in the 65th, the Captain got his just reward. Making another run up the right side, he received a beautiful pass from Cristian Higuita and scorched it underneath Colorado keeper Clint Irwin's outstretched arm and into the far side netting.
Orlando City had more chances, but Irwin came up with some good saves. Finally, in the dying moments of the match Colorado put together a few threats, and I was screaming at our lads to clear the ball from in front of our area instead of just toying with it. Fortunately, none of the chances the visitors had came to anything, and Tally Hall was able to escape the pitch with another clean sheet.
Standings and the View Ahead
The 2 - 0 victory and a loss by New England last night drew Orlando City to within one of tying for 2nd place in the East. However, it will be a while before Orlando City has any more matches that count for season points, as they don't play a regular season match again until July 4 at Real Salt Lake (Fake Salt Lake as one of our Rapids visitors to the tailgate informed us). Hopefully the down time will give both Collin and Shea a chance to get fully healthy again. Cyle Larin will be off for duty with the Canadian National Team for a spell, and that will mean more starts for Pedro Ribeiro.
I think that will be good for Ribeiro, and the break from club play may be good for Larin as well. Coming in as a rookie from college, I've been curious if Larin will hit a rookie "wall" when he realizes he has months left to play after reaching what would be the end of a normal college season. Breaking up his play with a stint on the National Team may let him come back with a look at club play like it's a fresh college season and allow him to push on to the end of the year without suffering physical or mental fatigue from the much longer professional season.
In any case, I'm enthusiastic about our chances to make the playoffs and at least start the post season at home. Vamos Orlando!