ORLANDO, Fla. – Former-team drama and an expansion-team rivalry aside, Orlando City SC’s Sunday night match against New York City FC was about three points. Lions captain Ricardo Kaká knew of its importance, as he scored two goals for the Lions (6-7-13, 31 points) in a 2-1 victory over New York City (11-8-8, 41 points) at Camping World Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 27,482.
“A lot of motivation for the game, and congratulations for us because we need it, and we deserved a win like that,” Kaká said after the game. “The most important thing is when the team wins, and every time that I can help like this, [it’s] perfect.”
With the game tied at 1-1 in the 62nd minute, Kaká managed to draw a foul inside the top part of New York City’s box. That led to a match-winning, tie-breaking penalty kick in the 63rd minute by the Captain. The sequence began when Kevin Molino made a come-from-behind steal that was serviced to a nearby Matías Pérez Garcia, who back-heeled the ball to a cutting Kaká.
“Every training, every game, we are trying to set up things and be ready,” Kaká said. “Matías just arrived, but he’s a very smart player, intelligent; so it’s easy to play with him. Molino is a very good player, so it’s easy. This game especially, [Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis] gave us the opportunity to move everywhere, so we changed a lot of our positions… That made us create a lot of opportunities.”
Kreis praised Kaká for his leadership both in real-time matches and training.
“In [Major League Soccer], you need your designated players to perform,” Kreis said. “It doesn’t have to do with how much money they make. It’s more about their designation, the slot they take up in the roster. You’re allowed so few special players, so to speak… You can’t afford to get those decisions wrong.
“So, those players need to perform, and, from my point of view, since I’ve been here, Ricky’s been performing and really, really working hard and really buying into the concepts that we’re trying to teach here and leading by example. And that’s not just the performances in matches. That’s day in and day out in the training sessions.”
The Captain opened scoring in the 32nd minute when he dashed around New York City defender Jefferson Mena on the left side of the opposition’s box. His initial effort ricocheted between the legs of New York City goalkeeper Josh Saunders, but his persistence paid off with a second touch leading to a goal.
Molino would have had his 10th goal of the season were it not for the diving, selfless heroics of Ronald Matarrita. Lions left-back Luke Boden serviced a nice cross to Molino from New York City’s left flank. Molino then evaded Saunders, but the 35-year-old goalkeeper held off Molino long enough for Matarrita to come sliding into the right post that effectively deflected the on-goal attempt.
Man of the Match: Ricardo Kaká
The two-goal performance by Kaká was the first multi-goal performance the Brazilian has ever recorded in MLS. In addition to his praise-worthy goal-scoring efforts, the Captain was integral in maintaining pressure on Saunders. Kaká was responsible for three of the four on-target shots; Molino recorded the other one. The 34-year-old finished Sunday’s match with 74 minutes of game time.
Young Rivalry Continues to Grow
Since Orlando City and NYC both entered MLS in 2015, there has been a general consensus that a rivalry was in the making. And despite Kreis saying after the game that the match was still not about him, there’s an unavoidable mentality and desire to prove people wrong.
Orlando City’s hero of the match, Kaká, recognized this and, without being prompted, spoke immediately to that note following the game.
“Today was a special game for us, for everybody, I think also for our staff because Jason came from that team,” he said.
But even after victory, Kreis remained adamant in his stance that Sunday’s victory was just another game.
“The importance of the win has nothing to do with the opponent for me,” Kreis said. “As I said before last week and before that and all of this week, it wasn’t about me. It’s about the performance in the team and what the guys are willing to do. So I’m really pleased for the players. They’re the ones that deserve the credit.”
Orlando City finishes its season series with New York City 2-0-1 after going 1-1-1 in 2015.
For Orlando City defender Tommy Redding, it has been a long time since he played right-back.
“[The last time I played right-back] was before I signed any professional contract back when I used to play soccer when I was a kid.
“For me, it’s a little weird. There’s certain times and certain situations where I don’t know exactly what to do. But being a center-back and always talking to right-back has helped me a lot, so it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.”
Redding started his second-consecutive game and his third in four matches. Kreis said after the game that starting Redding at right-back was primarily to give Kevin Alston rest.
“The decision to start Tommy was born out of the fact that Kevin Alston was playing a ton of minutes, and he looked, literally, like he was going to die at the end of last game,” Kreis said. “So I really wanted to rest him and give him a bit of a break.
“Tommy did an admirable job tonight.”
After only appearing in two matches with one start in the club’s inaugural MLS season, Redding has made 17 appearances with 15 starts in the 2016 season with 1,256 minutes under his belt.
Keeping Pace for Playoffs
Making the playoffs is still the club’s primary priority, and though they are still sitting in the No. 7 spot, Sunday’s win keeps Orlando City in striking distance of a playoff spot.
On Saturday, D.C. United defeated the Chicago Fire 6-2, increasing the former’s point total to 32. Entering the game, the Lions were then four points behind D.C., making Orlando City’s bout against New York City that much more important. Sunday’s win kept Kreis’ team up to speed with the rest of the Eastern Conference.
“It was an important win because all of the teams that are slightly above us in the standings also won this weekend,” Kreis said. “So we kept pace, and that’s important for us.”
Kaká said the 2-1 win was significant for the team because of the opponent and the confidence it gave them.
“It means a lot for us because we won against the [second] team in the table in our conference,” he said. “So it’s a very positive thing. We’re confident for the next games that are coming. Hard games, but I think tonight we proved that we can achieve whatever we want.”
The Veteran Voices
At about the 66th-minute mark, Orlando City unleashed a volley of attacks on Saunders’ net. It was capped off by an Antonio Nocerino one-timer that went just wide left of the net. As Nocerino backpedaled into his defensive position while facing the supporters’ section, he called to the crowd for a second burst of energy.
For Kreis, the presence of both Nocerino and David Mateos has been crucial for the team.
“We asked many of the players to take on more of a vocal leadership,” Kreis said. “He was one of them. David Mateos was another, and we need more players to be more vocal, to instruct the players around them, to continue to encourage players in front of them. And both of those players, Antonio in particular, have been doing a really, really nice job of that in the past several weeks or so.”
Following a seven-day stretch of three games, Orlando City will have 10 days of rest before their next match against the No. 5 Montreal Impact (11-9-7, 37 points). That game will be in Montreal at 7:30 p.m. ET.
|32’||Orlando City SC||Ricardo Kaká||n/a|
|55’||New York City FC||Steven Mendoza||n/a|
|63’||Orlando City SC||Ricardo Kaká||PENALTY|
Statistics and Starting Lineups
|Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Goal||Possession %|
|Orlando City SC||2||0||10||4||50%|
|New York City FC||1||0||11||4||50%|
Orlando City SC starting XI: Joe Bendik; Luke Boden, David Mateos, José Aja, Tommy Redding; Servando Carrasco, Antonio Nocerino; Ricardo Kaká (C), Matías Pérez García, Kevin Molino; Cyle Larin
New York City FC starting XI: Josh Saunders; Ronald Matarrita, Jefferson Mena, Maxime Chanot, Jason Hernandez; Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, Frank Lampard; Thomas McNamara, David Villa (C), Steven Mendoza