Adrian Heath was as good as his US Open Cup word as his full-strength Orlando City SC team put paid to a makeshift Columbus Crew SC lineup in a 2-0 victory Tuesday night in a round-of-16 matchup.
City cruised through to the quarterfinals on the back of goals by skipper Kaka and young Colombian ace Carlos Rivas, but Gregg Berhalter’s Crew SC made them battle all the way in a wide-open second half that saw plenty of goalmouth incident.
Heath’s promise to field his strongest XI – against a Crew SC team showing no less than nine changes from the one that started at Real Salt Lake last Saturday – paid off in the 21st minute as Darwin Ceren took advantage of some sloppy defensive play to set up Kaka for his ninth goal of the season (all competitions) with a low shot from just inside the penalty area.
Orlando then made it 2-0 13 minutes later as Rivas scored for the Lions with a stunning first-time shot from all of 25 yards that buried itself in the top corner of the net.
The 21-year-old signing from Deportivo Cali has not been shy of shooting from distance this year, and he finally gave the fans plenty to cheer with his 29th attempt of the season.
Columbus, without MLS top-scorer Kei Kamara, failed to make the most of their first-half chances but were left shaking their heads in disbelief as they somehow failed to score during a six-minute purple patch to start the second period.
First, Icelandic striker Kristinn Steindorsson had an open look at Tally Hall’s goal from 17 yards but blazed far too high. Then the same player worked an even better opening that beat Hall only for Sean St Ledger to pull off a timely goal-line clearance from underneath his own bar.
Steindorsson chalked up a hat trick of near misses moments later as another effort whistled past Hall’s left-hand post, and the ‘keeper then did well to block a shot from substitute Roman Gall.
Berhalter’s men continued to press in the closing stages but they failed to get past a City defense well marshaled by St Ledger despite the Crew SC coach throwing Justin Meram into the fray late, although they out-shot the hosts 19-11.