ORLANDO, Fla.- Cyle Larin and Kaká turned on the second-half goal power for Orlando City who earned a comfortable home victory over Colorado Rapids. Orlando sits in the Eastern Conference top three at the halfway point of their season, while Colorado remains last in the west.
The two-goal burst after the hour mark followed a frustrating first half for the home team where the visitors put up a heavy defensive roadblock and twice almost snatched a goal against the run of play. Good saves by Tally Hall kept the Lions in a position to strike.
It was a fully deserved victory for Adrian Heath’s men, who got a towering, all-round performance out of Designated Player Kaká and a classical goal-poacher’s finish from top SuperDraft pick Larin—his sixth of the season—to underline a sharp second half in contrast to the first.
City coach Adrian Heath gave his men a chance to atone for their 2-0 defeat at Montreal last weekend by making just the one enforced change, with Seb Hines replacing the injured Aurelien Collin in the back four.
Colorado’s Pablo Mastroeni made five changes in a bid for their second win in 12 games, including giving the towering defender Joseph Greenspan—the team’s second-round SuperDraft pick this year—his MLS debut alongside Shane O’Neill, plus Kevin Doyle and Lucas Pittinari starting in midfield for Gabriel Torres and Sam Cronin.
Heath had to make another injury change as the groin problem that has troubled Brek Shea in recent weeks showed up again in only the 16th minute and, while he managed to struggle on for a while, Carlos Rivas was summoned from the bench before half-time.
The Lions were looking to extend a four-game home unbeaten streak dating back to May 8 and, as has been the case for much of the season at the raucous Citrus Bowl, they dominated possession but almost completely failed to make Clint Irwin work in the first 45 minutes.
The lone danger moment came on the stroke of half-time as Luke Boden freed Rivas down the left and the winger immediately found Kaká in space inside the penalty area. Irwin came out swiftly to block the goal-bound shot and the Rapids defense able to scramble the loose ball for a corner.
Orlando were also guilty of some glaring giveaways in their own half—not for the first time in their inaugural MLS campaign—and Luis Solignac had two gilt-edged chances to make them pay. Both times he failed to beat Hall from inside the penalty area, the second opening in a clear one-on-one opportunity.
The visitors were happy to defend in depth and their reworked back four largely stood up to the test well. For much of the match, City were held to long-range efforts that disturbed the crowd more than Irwin.
The second half started with another Rivas left-wing break, followed by one on the right by Rafael Ramos that produced a Larin header that Irwin saved well low to his right.
Ramos popped up again with a perfect pass to pick out Kaká in the penalty area and the Brazilian’s instant shot cannoned off the right post before rolling across the face of goal to safety.
The hard-working Kaká then saw another low shot well saved by Irwin before the dam finally broke in the 62nd minute, and again Rivas was at the heart of it.
The Colombian winger was set free on the left once more and skinned his defender out wide before sending in the perfect low cross for Larin to thump home from close range.
The clincher came three minutes later, with Cristian Higuita leading a breakaway charge and the Rapids defense failing to close down Kaká on the right. The City captain looked up from a wide angle inside the eighteen-yard-box and picked out the perfect low drive to beat Irwin to his far post for his team-leading eighth goal this year.
Mastroeni used all his substitutes in a bid to salvage something in the last 20 minutes, but Dillon Powers failed to beat Hall with a low shot with the visitors’ best chance. Ramos almost made it three for Orlando with a rasping 25-yard drive that Irwin managed to beat out.
Orlando now have the weekend off before hosting Columbus in the next round of the US Open Cup next Tuesday and a league trip to Real Salt Lake on July 4, while the Rapids return to Sporting Park on Saturday to face Western Conference rivals Sporting Kansas City.