Kaká returns: Orlando City downs Timbers

The wait is finally over. Ricardo Kaká is back.

The Orlando City captain scored and tallied two assists before Kevin Molino capped the scoring late as the Lions cruised past the defending MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers 4-1 on Sunday night in front of 31,114 spectators at the Citrus Bowl.

“Massive win for us,” Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said. “First home win of the season, I thought we deserved it. Big performances from a lot of players. 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, we’ll be a formidable force to deal with.”

Seb Hines opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Kaká whipped in a ball 30 yards from the box, finding the Englishman to head the ball past Adam Larsen Kwarasey. Brek Shea’s strike from close range doubled the lead in the 32nd minute after Kaká served the former FC Dallas man with a pass inside the box.

kaka-portland-jpg.

Ricardo Kaká dribbles past Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. (Courtesy of Adrian Hernandez)

Kaká opened his 2016 scoring account minutes into the second half when Adrian Winter placed a dead ball for the Brazilian to slot into the net.

“I’m so happy with this game,” the Orlando City captain said. “I’m so proud of my team. We played a really great game. [Portland] won the league last year, and we just played a very, very good game. It’s much more than I could think. I don’t have words to say how happy I am.”

Molino, who missed a majority of the 2015 season because of an ACL injury, drew and converted on a penalty kick in the 76th minute for his first-ever MLS goal. The Trinidad & Tobago international finished with five shots with two of them on target.

Portland’s first chance of scoring came in the 42nd minute when referee Alan Kelly whistled a penalty after a Shea handball. Fanendo Adi stepped up to take the penalty for the Timbers, but Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik denied the striker from converting the goal.

The Timbers, however, converted in the final minutes of the game when Jack McInerney slotted in the ball from close range.

“I just thought he was outstanding,” Heath said on Bendik’s performance. “Whenever we needed him, he’ll come up big. When Stewart Kerr, goalkeeping coach, joined the staff, and he realized we were after a goalkeeper, he was pretty hellbent that we should take Joe Bendik, and you can see why.

“He’s got all the attributes, he’s brave, good kick on the ball, he’s got good hands. He’s come up big for us,” Heath concluded.

Cyle Larin, who is the leading Orlando goalscorer with three goals this season, exited the game in the 23rd minute after sustaining an injury. Servando Carrasco entered the game for the Canadian international.

Aurélien Collin made his season debut, coming in for Oviedo native Tommy Redding at halftime.

The Timbers posted a 7-8-2 record on the road last year, which was also a league best. The Lions, however, entered Sunday’s game boasting the best defense in the Eastern Conference with only three goals allowed.

Antonio Nocerino, who sustained a hamstring injury at New York City FC on March 18, was on the bench for Orlando.

The Lions (2-0-2, 8 points) moved two points clear atop the Eastern Conference.

Orlando visits the Philadelphia Union on Friday at 7 p.m. before returning home to host the New England Revolution on April 17 at 3:30 p.m.

Orlando City starting XI: Bendik; Shea, Hines, Redding, Rafael Ramos; Darwin Cerén, Cristian Higuita; Kaká, Molino, Winter; Larin

Follow Mike Gramajo on Twitter (@byMikeGramajo). For more, also follow the OSJ on Twitter (@OSJSoccer).

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