For the second year in a row, the defending MLS champions came into Orlando and got spanked. Last year, the LA Galaxy came in and got curb stomped, 4-0. This year, the Portland Timbers were 4-1 victims in front of an announced crowd of 31,114, as the Lions put together by far their best 90-minute effort of this young 2016 season.
Orlando scored two goals in each half, with Brek Shea notching his first goal as a Lion and Kevin Molino — from the penalty spot — picking up his first MLS goal. Seb Hines and Kaká added tallies of their own and Joe Bendik stopped a Fanendo Adi penalty. Only a late Jack McInerney consolation goal spoiled the fun on this night for Orlando City fans.
The Lions (2-0-2, 8 points) moved to the top of the Eastern Conference table. The Timbers (1-2-1, 4 points) continued their slow start to the 2016 season.
“Massive win for us, first home win of the season. I thought we thoroughly deserved it,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said after the match. “I thought some of our play at times was exceptional. We scored some great goals. Big performances from a lot of players.”
With Antonio Nocerino still working his way into full match fitness, Adrian Heath came out in a 4-2-3-1, with the same back line of Shea, Hines, Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos; Cristian Higuita and Darwin Ceren in central midfield; Adrian Winter on the left side of Kaká and Molino; and Cyle Larin up top.
The game started a bit sloppily, with both teams turning the ball over, kicking it out of bounds and generally doing non-soccery things. After the match, Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter attributed some of that to his team getting used to the Citrus Bowl turf.
Orlando City grabbed the lead in the 13th minute.
Kaká lined up a free kick from more than 30 yards out and served a ball right onto the head of a charging Hines, who buried it over Adam Kwarasey for City’s first set piece goal of the season. Hines, who scored four with his head in a preseason friendly against Esporte Clube Bahia in the preseason, continues to click with the captain on set pieces.
Moments later, the Lions weren’t feeling quite as good, as striker Larin went down with a hamstring injury and was forced to leave the game in the 24th minute. With rookie Hadji Barry the only available striker on the bench, Heath inserted Servando Carrasco into the lineup, moving Kaká to the top of the formation.
The Lions doubled their lead on 32 minutes, as Shea got forward in the attack and ripped a shot from the left side of the box into the upper right corner, giving Kwarasey no chance to stop it. The Texan took a pass from Kaká, broke into space, and fired to give Orlando City a 2-0 margin.
“It was a fantastic finish,” Heath said of Shea’s goal. The coach praised his left back, saying, “his athleticism at times to go the full length of the field up and down was mind blowing at times. Hopefully (USMNT manager) Jurgen (Klinsmann) was watching.”
The Timbers nearly trimmed that lead twice on the brink of halftime. Portland was awarded a penalty by referee Alan Kelly when a Carrasco header hit Shea’s arm, although it was unintentional. Bendik dove to his right to deny the spot kick.
“If that goes in, at 2-1, it’s a game changer,” Heath said. “All of a sudden they’re fully back in the game. I just thought (Bendik) was outstanding. When we needed him he came up big.”
Diego Valeri also had a golden opportunity but had his wide open chance deflected wide for a corner.
Kaká needed only three minutes in the second half to put the game out of reach. Molino played up the right side and slid a pass across for Winter, who did a great job of holding off Nat Borchers and playing back to the captain, who fired home to make it 3-0.
Molino added his first MLS goal on a spot kick later, which he earned himself on the end of some intricate play in the area before being taken down from behind. His shot to the left beat Kwarasey.
McInerney kept the game from having an identical score line to last year’s Orlando City-LA Galaxy match. The ball pinballed around and eventually fell for the Portland striker.
“As I said to the players after the game, if we believe in what we’re trying to do and we play with that same intensity, then — certainly in this place with our supporters behind us — it’s a pretty formidable force to deal with,” Heath said.
The Lions will travel to Philadelphia next to take on the Union Friday at 7 p.m.