Orlando City’s bid to go deeper in the U.S. Open Cup than ever before fell short as tired legs, a flight to the Northeast, and an early goal off a set piece were ultimately too much to overcome. The Philadelphia Union eliminated the Lions 1-0 at Talen Energy Stadium in a quarterfinal match-up on a fourth-minute goal by Alejandro Bedoya and Orlando really didn’t threaten Andre Blake’s net a whole lot on the night.
The Lions bow out in the quarterfinals for the third time in team history. The Union reach the semifinals for the fourth time in their history.
James O’Connor sent out a pretty strong lineup that included the Orlando City debut of center back Shane O’Neill, and the 24-year-old was one of Orlando’s few bright spots on the night.
It didn’t take long for Philadelphia to get on the scoreboard even though Orlando had the first couple of attacks through a couple of Mohamed El-Munir crosses that didn’t quite find the target. The Union earned a corner in the fourth minute and took it short to Haris Medunjanin. His cross found a wide-open Fafa Picault in the area but Earl Edwards Jr. rejected his shot, which unfortunately fell perfectly for Bedoya to fire into the top of the net to make it 1-0.
Philadelphia kept pressing at every opportunity, working the ball quickly to take advantage of tired Orlando City legs. Medunjanin fired over the bar in the 12th minute, and a minute later the Lions got their first look at goal when Will Johnson’s long-range effort sailed just over the bar.
The Union should have doubled the lead in the 16th minute when Keegan Rosenberry’s cross was dummied by David Accam and skipped through the box for Borek Dockal, who was robbed by Edwards.
Two minutes later, Accam fired just wide off a quick set piece that caught the Lions flat-footed. As Philadelphia kept coming, O’Neill made an outstanding play to out-duel Cory Burke in a 1-v-1 situation and won the ball back deep in his own penalty area.
The Lions’ best opportunity of the half came in the 21st minute when Chris Mueller’s cross found Josué Colmán at the far side of the area. The Paraguayan’s shot was deflected out for a corner and Blake may have gotten a piece of that to keep it out.
Orlando City’s attacks were few and far between and just not sharp enough. Mueller did well to find Will Johnson in the area in the 31st minute but the Canadian rushed a weak shot toward the back post that Blake easily scooped up. Two minutes later, Tarek headed a free kick cross from Mueller well over the goal.
Edwards made a diving stop on Burke in the 34th minute as the Union continued trying to use their speed down the wings to get around the City defense. Three minutes later, Uri Rosell’s cross found the head of Johnson and Blake tipped it over the bar with a good reaction save on a shot that may have been going high anyway.
The Union got the last good look of the half in the 43rd when Dockal was left alone in the box for the second time and this time he flubbed his shot, sending it way over the crossbar.
Philadelphia held 55% of the first-half possession and out-shot the Lions, 9-7 (5-3 on target) but realistically the Union had much better scoring chances with their shots than Orlando did. The Union held an 83%-81% advantage in passing accuracy.
The second half wasn’t much different from the first. O’Connor sent Dillon Powers on at the break for Mueller, presumably to save something of the rookie’s legs for Saturday night’s match in Columbus.
A shot over the net in the 49th minute by Johnson was one of Orlando’s few looks at goal in the second period as the Union further sapped what little was left of the Lions’ energy.
Edwards was forced to make a good save on Burke in the 52nd minute to keep it a one-goal game.
Blake nearly got caught with a heavy touch as Dwyer came charging at him in the 55th, but the Jamaican goalkeeper made a slick move to step around the Orlando striker on a play that could have ended up embarrassing the hosts. Three minutes later, Dwyer nearly got onto a deflected Colmán cross that was just a bit off line, allowing Blake to catch it.
Nothing much happened over the next 10 minutes except for a couple of substitutions by each team, with O’Connor bringing on Stefano Pinho and Cam Lindley, and withdrawing Colmán and Rosell.
Philadelphia started to grab more and more control of the game over the final 20 minutes, winning every ball forward, reading plays and stepping in front of Orlando City players, and generally keeping the ball away. Picault nearly had an insurance goal in the 80th minute but fired just inches wide of the far post from the left side.
Two minutes later, Orlando got its best opportunity of the second half as Pinho slid a ball across the top of the area for Kjlestan, but the ball was a bit off line and all he could do was send it meekly at Blake. Perhaps Kljestan should have done better, but just a little better service may well have seen the game level in the 82nd minute.
From there, the game mostly consisted of Philadelphia shots from distance that Edwards parried away. After Dockal shot wide in the 83rd, Edwards made a good save on second-half sub C.J. Sapong in the 88th and Bedoya in the 90th.
Orlando could do nothing but boot the ball up the field and watch Philadelphia take possession in the final five minutes of regulation and four minutes of injury time.
The Union ended up with 54% of the possession and a 19-10 advantage in shots (9-4 on target), completing 84% of their passes to Orlando’s 81%.
The Lions are now 11-8-2 all-time in the U.S. Open Cup, advancing on penalties after both draws (2015 and 2018).
The Lions will be back in action on Saturday night, playing their third game in eight days — and second on the road — when they face the Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m.