ORLANDO, Fla. – Seb Hines said he reacted out of pure “instinct” for the goal that swept Orlando City SC to the most dramatic of wins over Montreal Impact in a night of intense pressure at the raucous Citrus Bowl.
The center back had not scored in any league since August 25, 2012, when he scored for Middlesbrough in the Championship in England. But he showed a striker’s touch to net the 80th-minute winner in a tense finish against Orlando's 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoff rivals.
He was only playing, in fact, because of the sickening aerial collision between Orlando defensive teammates Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos that saw both players carted off earlier in the match with head injuries. And Hines turned out to be the most delighted – if unexpected – scorer in the pressure-cooker atmosphere.
“It was just instinct, really,” he insisted. “The ball fell to me and I was lucky enough to get a good connection on it. It was a really big feeling to see it go in, just amazing, really. And I think it shows the mettle of this team. We will not just give up until it is all over.”
Redding was preferred to Hines for the starting role partly because the latter, a former Boro defender, dislocated his shoulder in last week’s win at the New York Red Bulls. The team was wary about the shoulder taking another blow and potentially forcing an early sub. Ironically, he ended up playing nearly a full 90 minutes anyway (79 regulation minutes, plus added time), and he admitted it was a tough, physical battle.
“I had to wear a shoulder brace to protect it,” Hines said. “There was a little concern that it might come out again, but I think our back four did a terrific job tonight. We all battled for each other. We knew we had to get three points, and we have now put ourselves in a position to take this to the end of the season and, although we still need other teams to help us, it should make for a great finish now.”
Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath was ecstatic with the performance of his men, especially after the huge defensive shuffle that saw left sided player Brek Shea playing at right back for the first time in his career.
“The attitude of the players was magnificent. I thought we fully deserved the three points,” Heath said. “I thought Seb and Luke [Boden] were fantastic, and Brek was unbelievable having to play on the right. It was an incredible effort all-round considering that back four had never played together before.
“I think the desire of the players was evident for everybody to see. Seb and Luke were also fantastic before the game, after I had to tell them they weren’t starting, and sometimes you get your rewards for being a good professional as Seb did tonight.”
Heath admitted he did not have a good view of Montreal's only and controversial goal, when Dominic Oduro appeared to take the ball virtually out of goalkeeper Tally Hall’s hands before knocking it into the net.
“I had people in the way, so I couldn’t see for sure,” he said. “It could have been a big issue for us, but I can’t praise the players enough for the way they handled the situation tonight. I also have to mention the crowd. They were incredible and I think we will get an even bigger crowd for the New York City game now.”
Hall insisted he did have both hands on the ball before Oduro nicked it away from him, but he was also contrite about his reaction, which led to a yellow card.
“I wish I had kept a cooler head,” he admitted. “I still think I was right, though. I had pinned the ball against the ground with two hands and he took it away from me. As I understand the rules, if the keeper has his hands on the ball, it is his ball and you can’t take it away from him.
“It was extremely frustrating, but the team reacted incredibly well. That last 10 minutes were some of the most anxious of my life, but we showed great spirit to fight back from the early injury setback and then get the goal when we needed it most.”
The team was still awaiting further news of Redding and Ramos after the game, as both were under observation for head trauma, while Ramos was also being treated for severe lacerations to his forehead.
They will at least have more than a week to recover before the home game vs. New York City FC on October 16, when they will definitely be without skipper Kaká after his first-half yellow card ensured a one-game suspension.