It was a night of opportunity and progress. On Saturday, the Citrus Bowl was alive with over 20,000 fans to see Orlando City take on Brazilian Serie-A team Ponte Preta. Orlando City recorded their first win at home on the wings of a scoring outburst. The Lions tallied three goals on the night, and as the lights turned off around midnight Saturday, the pitch was still covered in a layer of purple and gold confetti.
It was also an opportunity away from the grind of the MLS schedule to see some new faces excel, in some cases at new positions.
Luke Boden got his second start of the year and made it count. Not only did his service from the corner flag find Sean St. Ledger, who promptly headed the ball into the back of the net, but his strong defensive play offered an opportunity to move Shea up to his usual midfield position when he came on for Kaká in the 25th minute.
Several young members of the Pride made significant contributions, too. Harrison Heath, Conor Donovan, and Sydney Rivera all made their first starts for the club. Forward Bryan Róchez scored the first goal of his Orlando City career with a clean header in the 45th minute.
Heath has been looking for more from Róchez, who scored 29 goals in 59 games in the Honduras Primera División. Róchez has had limited minutes this season, but solid finishes like the Designated Player’s goal on Saturday are the stepping-stones to future success with the club.
Róchez came off in the 73rd minute to make room for Cyle Larin, and the move paid off. Larin used his speed to get behind the Ponte Preta back line and was pulled down in the box. As Brek Shea took the ball to the spot, the rookie calmly pulled the ball from the U.S. internationals hands, placed the ball on the spot, and gave Orlando City the victory. The 20-year-old’s blast sealed the victory and no doubt offered a huge confidence boost, for himself and the club.
“It gives us a lot of confidence for the next game,” added Larin after the game.
“Obviously [I’m] pleased with the result, nice to get a few goals at home, give our supporters something to cheer,” said Heath of the game. “Pleased for the supporters but, I have to be honest, I’m really pleased for the payers to get a few goals and actually feel, even though it’s a friendly game, to have won the game at home.”
Orlando City will look to continue that momentum into MLS play as the New England Revolution come to town this Friday night.