For Orlando City coach Jason Kreis, Sunday night’s encounter with his former club was nothing but another game. For Orlando as a team, however, playoff implications were on the line.
So leave it to Ricardo Kaka and his two-goal performance to lift Orlando City SC past New York City FC 2-1 in front of 27,482 at Camping World Stadium.
“For me the most important thing tonight is the performance,” Kreis told reporters after the game. “I’m seeing continued improvements in the performance, continued improvement on how we’re defending, and it’s pleasing. It wasn’t a perfect night, but we’re after perfect.”
The Brazilian star put the Lions (6-7-13, 31 points) on the scoresheet in the 32nd minute after making a run past NYCFC defender Jefferson Mena, striking the ball toward Josh Saunders before hitting the rebound into the net for the early first half lead.
Steven Mendoza tied the game for NYCFC in the 55th minute after striking a rebound from Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik, but Kaka drew a penalty kick for Orlando City minutes later before converting from the spot in the 63rd minute to give the Lions the eventual win.
It was Kaka’s first multi-goal performance in Major League Soccer.
“A lot of motivation for the game, congratulations to us because we needed it, and we deserve a win like that,” said Kaka after the game. “Tonight we had a very good game defensively, I think it’s important to have this consistency, so it’s a good game to keep as an example.”
Sunday’s victory for Orlando snapped a four-game winless run.
Orlando City transitioned to a more defensive style of play after Matias Perez Garcia and Kaka substituted out in 67th and 73rd minute, respectively. That would eventually open an offensive wave for Patrick Vieira’s men, which resulted into outshooting the Lions 11-10 and dominating 50.4 possession.
“We made it difficult for ourselves,” said Vieira. “I was really disappointed with the first half we played. I think we didn’t play with intensity. I think that doesn’t reflect on how we’ve been playing in the last few months. We had a reaction in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but it wasn’t enough to play something from the beginning.”
Both teams met earlier this season in a 2-2 draw at Yankee Stadium on May 29. Kevin Molino scored the game-tying goal in stoppage to salvage a point for the Lions on the road.
Orlando still sits outside playoff contention, and faces a tough schedule when it visits the Montreal Impact on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m.