Superb Kaka and Rivas goals down Baggies
ALBION tasted a 3-1 friendly defeat against MLS side Orlando City in the opening game of their USA pre-season tour at the Citrus Bowl.
Callum McManaman’s 14th-minute deflected effort, his first goal in Albion colours, opened the scoring in front of the 15,172 present in Florida.
However, the Baggies were dealt a sucker punch on the stroke of half-time as Orlando star man Kaka wound back the years with a sublime solo run – which started on the halfway line and finished with a composed finish to draw the hosts level.
Tony Pulis’ side quickly found themselves behind just minutes after the restart courtesy of Carlos Rivas’ 30-yard free-kick which nestled firmly in the top corner.
A physically fit mid-season Orlando side strengthened their grip as the encounter wore on in 28c heat on a difficult artificial surface.
And Bryan Rochez converted a well-taken third in the 86th minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Albion head coach Pulis stated in the build-up to Albion’s second match of pre-season that the friendly was all about match fitness and not the scoreline, and he will have been pleased to see his unscathed squad get more valuable minutes under their belts.
Orlando were the first of three opponents on the club’s 10-day stay on the East Coast of the US– with Charleston Battery next up on Friday followed by a clash against Richmond Kickers on Sunday.
There was an early scare for Albion as Craig Dawson was called upon to clear Rochez’s effort to safety after he had knocked the ball past the onrushing Boaz Myhill.
Former Real Madrid, AC Milan and Brazil international Kaka sent a free-kick straight at the wall – but it was the Baggies, who has enjoyed decent early possession themselves, who took the lead.
McManaman picked up the ball out on the left, cut inside and fired a shot goalwards which deflected off Aurelien Collin and crept in at the far post, leaving Orlando goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts stranded.
Albion enjoyed a couple of half-chances as the first period continued and appeared set to lead going into the interval – that was until a piece of injury-time magic from Kaka that even Youssouf Mulumbu would have been proud of.
The 2007 Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year picked up the ball on the halfway line and surged into a space that opened up in Albion’s defence before finishing his solo run with a fine strike across Myhill.
Matters went from bad to worse for the Baggies four minutes after the restart as the hosts took the lead courtesy of another super strike - Rivas curling a free-kick over the wall and into the top corner from distance.
Tony Pulis introduced Joleon Lescott, Craig Gardner and Victor Anichebe in place of Jonas Olsson, Chris Brunt and Brown Ideye respectively.
Albion were handed a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area shortly after the hour mark but Gardner saw his set-piece deflected off target.
The substitute tried his luck again just minutes later but City’s replacement stopper Earl Edwards tipped over the crossbar.
Sebastien Pocognoli replaced McManaman before James Morrison sent over a dipping volley from distance.
And with the encounter in the closing stages, Orlando’s Pedro Ribeiro fed a throughball to Rochez, who duly dispatched past Myhill despite the best efforts of Gareth McAuley.
Albion: Myhill; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson (Lescott 50’), Brunt (53’); McClean, Fletcher ©, Yacob, McManaman (Pocognoli 79’); Morrison, Ideye (Anichebe 50’).
Subs: Rose; A Nabi, Donnellan, Fitzwater.
GOAL: McManaman 14’
BOOKED: McAuley (foul 6’)
ORLANDO GOALS: Kaka 45+2’, Rivas 49’, Rochez 86’
Albion star man: Callum McManaman