Their 1-0 victory was their first road win since April 23 against NYCFC. The win also snapped a five-game winless streak across all competitions and with the return of Cyle Larin gives them some confidence that their season is on an upswing.
“The soccer wasn’t great. At the moment, the result was much, much, much more important than the soccer,” Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis said.
The game's lone goal came as a perfect free kick from Kaká was headed into the crossbar by Jose Aja and midfielder Will Johnson put the rebound away. That goal and the clean sheet meant three big points for Orlando.
“We needed this win for this group of guys. We needed this win badly. We have had some leads on the road that we have coughed up and left some points on the table over this last stretch, so it was a relief,” Johnson said.
Larin returned from his time in the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program after a DUI arrest on June 15 and while not scoring he did help kill off the game with a one-goal lead in the second half, which at times looked to be slowly unraveling for the visitors.
“It’s a night at altitude. As things go on, fatigue sets in," Johnson said. "You get frustrated with certain things and you’re not thinking as clearly as you should be. It’s why it’s so difficult to get points here. I don’t think anybody is frustrated in that locker room, now that everybody has calmed down.”
It didn't always appear that way, as Kaká looked frustrated when he was subbed off in the 71st minute and went directly to the locker room. When asked about it, Kreis said he didn’t know of an injury concern, but did not indicate if there was another issue.
The game plan, while occasionally nervy, was effective and played out as Orlando thought it would.
“We knew that if we played a solid formation and shape, we knew they wouldn’t break us down or create many chances and if they did Joe [Bendik] would come up with plays,” Johnson said. “The performance wasn’t pretty, but a lot of the games we won earlier in the year weren’t pretty.”
Returning to their earlier form is still a process, but getting back in the win column was the first step Orlando took on Friday night.
“At some point in the season we’re all going to go through ups and downs and that’s why we’re a team. First and foremost, was getting back to what made us good at the start of the season. From front to back, we showed we really wanted to get those three points tonight,” halftime sub Servando Carrasco said.
Their early season form led Orlando to six wins in their first seven games, but Friday night was a step that at least brings them closer to playing well consistently, home or away.
“The performance with the ball was probably not quite as good as we wanted, but we made no mistakes, and eventually we leave with the three points,” Johnson said.