A new era in Orlando soccer was ushered in on Sunday.
Orlando City opened its new downtown soccer stadium and after three tries, the Lions were able to win a home opener.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of takeaways from Orlando’s week one in the 2017 Major League Soccer season.
Let’s get to it:
Kaka suffers serious injury
It caught mostly everybody by surprise.
Ricardo Kaka left the field 10 minutes into the game, and headed straight to the locker room.
Though Orlando City went on to win 1-0 over New York City FC courtesy of Cyle Larin’s goal moments later after Kaka’s exit, head coach Jason Kreis confirmed after the game the Brazilian star could be out for some time.
“I’m very, very disappointed for Ricky because he’s worked extremely hard in the offseason, and extremely hard in the preseason,” Jason Kreis said on Kaka leaving the game early because of an injury. “It looks like this could be a pretty serious injury, so really disappointed for him. This was a huge night for him. I think everybody could see the energy he was putting in those 11 minutes, and I think this was going to be a special night for him.”
The injury occurred eight minutes into the game when Kaka made a run toward NYCFC’s box, colliding with a group of defenders before falling and clutch his left hamstring.
Kaka’s injury only adds more trouble to the team’s injury list. According to Kreis, the midfielder will be evaluated on Monday before a timetable on his return is set.
“He’s a big player. Throughout the year, since I’ve been here, he’s helped me a lot during the season, and we lose a piece that we really need,” said Larin on the team losing Kaka to injury. “But I think we have players on the bench that can come in and do a good job.”
Backline Holds it Down
One concern going into this season was how the backline was going to perform this year.
After a league-high 60 goals conceded last year, the first game of the 2017 season started off on the right foot for Orlando’s back four.
Kreis praised his backline after shutting down NYCFC striker David Villa for most of the game.
“I do think that in times past and even with the group we had last year I feel this game would’ve ended up differently,” said Kreis. “I feel the team spirit would have buckled and there would’ve been a mistake that would’ve cost us and tonight the guys continued to fight, continued to stay together even though there were some mistakes happening. A lot of mistakes happening, but people had positive reactions to those mistakes and we made plays. Big, big night for everybody defensively and that’s something to build on.”
The back four Kreis deployed consisted of center backs Jose Aja and Jonathan Spector, and outside back in Will Johnson and Donny Toia.
The second half didn’t have the Lions attacking much, with only two of their seven shots coming in the second 45 minutes, but defensively they were able to commit crucial saves throughout the game.
“We talked a lot about David [Villa],” Aja told Spector before the game on containing the Spanish striker. “He is an excellent player and we had to be very focused on him. We were always marking him but on a few plays he got away because he’s a player of of tremendous quality and luckily we were able to contain him.”
Johnson impresses at right back
A surprise move on Sunday was midfielder Will Johnson playing at right back.
The former Toronto FC man played the full 90 minutes and was lauded by his coach and teammates after the game.
“I think massive defensive performance,” said Kreis. “He was at the right spot at the right time at many occasions in our penalty box and really appreciate his commitment level and his leadership and his fight. I think the whole team put forth a Will Johnson-type effort and I think that’s what it’s going to take to get points in this league. Really pleased with him.”
Even Spector provided praise to his teammate: “I think he has only played there a few times, it’s not his natural position. He is a great midfield player as well. Servando did really well also. Will played extremely well, and I do not think we could of got the result we did, if those guys didn’t contribute their fair share.”
(Featured Photo by Nick Leyva, The Mane Land)