In what was a bit of a plodding and ugly game at times, Orlando City blew a 1-0 lead in the second half and then scored twice to win 3-1 over Memphis 901 FC in U.S. Open Cup fourth round action at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex. Sacha Kljestan converted a first-half penalty and added the eventual game winner on a counter attack and defender Robin Jansson opened his Orlando account with the insurance goal.
The Lions, who improved to 12-8-2 all-time in U.S. Open Cup play and 4-4-2 since jumping to MLS, advance to the competition’s fifth round, with the drawing to be held on Thursday.
James O’Connor played four center backs on the back line, due to the unavailability of Danilo Acosta (international duty) and Kyle Smith (red card in last year’s USOC), going with (L-R) Alex De John, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, and Shane O’Neill in front of goalkeeper Adam Grinwis. Sacha Kljestan anchored the midfield three, with Cristian Higuita to his left and Dillon Powers on the right.
The forward line saw striker Santiago Patino flanked by Chris Mueller and Tesho Akindele. OCB left back Randy Mendoza was called up to the substitutes’ bench as the Lions had only five reserves on the night — Brian Rowe, Ruan, Uri Rosell, Carlos Ascues, and Mendoza.
Memphis got the early chances. Jochen Graf took a dangerous cross but failed to make good contact with his shot in just the second minute and the Lions were able to clear. About 10 minutes later, Graf sent a header off a defender and out for a corner after Higuita conceded a free kick.
Orlando’s first decent opportunity came in the 19th minute. Kljestan took a shot from outside the area and Patino flicked it on but the ball skipped just wide.
There weren’t many great opportunities in what was a bit of a plodding first half. The Lions did well to maintain possession and break up most of what Memphis tried to do — Lagos Kunga was isolated up top much of the half — but they weren’t very convincing despite taking a lead into the locker room. Most of Orlando’s shot attempts were lazy and telegraphed, allowing Memphis to get in and block them. Crosses were similarly blocked often as Orlando players failed to make the final quick movement needed to clear themselves for the attack.
O’Neill drew a penalty on Abdi Mohamed, shielding the ball and taking contact in the back in the penalty area. Kljestan followed up with the spot kick and beat Scott Levene — who guessed correctly — to put the Lions ahead in the 37th minute.
Orlando City held 75% of the possession at halftime, out-shot Memphis 9-4 (1-0 on goal), and passed at an 85% clip to just 63% for Memphis. Grinwis did make one save on a wide shot that deflected off his own defender.
Memphis wasted no time getting on the front foot after the interval. The hosts came in on a four-on-two break just four minutes into the second period but Kunga’s shot was deflected out for a corner. A minute later Memphis scored the equalizer off the ensuing corner. Elliot Collier rose above the defense and easily nodded Marc Burch’s service past Grinwis to make it 1-1 in the 50th minute. It appeared that closest defender O’Neill mistimed his jump on the play.
The game didn’t stay tied long. Higuita got away with a foul in the midfield on what was ruled by referee Sergii Demianchukto be a fair takeaway and the Lions were on the break. Kljestan took the ball and passed right to Higuita. The Colombian drew a defender then crossed back to Kljestan who slotted home to make it 2-1 in the 55th minute.
The second goal energized the Lions. Powers smashed a shot that forced a good save from Levene in the 58th minute. Two minutes later, Sané missed the net on a free header off a corner kick.
The game settled back into a slower-paced affair for the next dozen minutes or so and Orlando found an insurance goal. After looking anything but threatening on corner kicks all night, the Lions finally cashed in on one. The delivery by Mueller ended up getting nodded down by Kljestan. Patino tried a bicycle kick but couldn’t do much more than brush the ball onward. It fell perfectly for Jansson at the back post to bundle it home for a 3-1 lead in the 71st minute.
Memphis nearly pulled one back three minutes later but Grinwis made a good save to deny Collier a brace. He made another save on a blast by Burch on a free kick in the first minute of stoppage time and a couple of minutes later the Lions heard the whistle signal their victory was complete.
The Lions finished with 65% of the possession, out-shot the hosts 16-10 (5-3 on target), and out-passed Memphis (84%-75%).
Orlando will be off until returning to league play on Wednesday, June 26, when the Lions visit D.C. United. They’ll learn their fifth-round opponents during today’s draw, which starts at 10 a.m.