Orlando City hosted New York City FC in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Exploria Stadium. The Lions advanced 1-1 (5-4) on kicks from the spot. It was a total team effort in a very long match with plenty of ups and downs. What did we learn as Orlando City moves on to the semifinals of the Open Cup?
Squad Rotation is Key
James O’Connor brought out his more traditional starting lineup, with 10 different starters from Sunday’s match. Tired legs are a big concern for the players, given the amount of travel and the number of games in such a short time period. Rotating the squad match to match was not just a good idea, it was crucial for Orlando City in this match. This was especially true given that there were six minutes of stoppage time, and then the game went to 30 minutes of extra time. The Lions were able to grind their way through extra time, though it remains to be seen how the extra minutes will affect the squad moving forward.
No Possession, No Problem
James O’Connor is an advocate of the pressing style of play, and Orlando City certainly showed that in this match. After Orlando City settled into the match, the defense was stout, and the pressure up top was enough for 95 minutes. That doesn’t mean the team was able to control the ball. Orlando City only managed 36% of the possession, but in the end that didn’t matter.
Cash Money Deposits Another Goal
Nani broke free on the left side, beat the defenders and put in a perfect cross for Chris Mueller. Cash then put a perfect header into the goal in the 61st minute to give Orlando City a 1-0 lead. The Lions had been knocking at the door since about halfway through the first half of the game, and it seemed as if they were bound to get that goal. The goal is Mueller’s sixth of the season in all competitions, doubling his total from last season with nearly half the season to play.
96th Minute Heartbreaker
As he has done so many times before, Maxi Moralez gut punched Orlando City supporters in the 96th minute. When the delivery came in from outside the box, the ball bounced around a bit, it fell right at his feet, and Moralez put it in the net. The goal tied the match, forcing extra time. Fortunately, it was Moralez who was ultimately heartbroken, as he wasn’t able to be on the field for the spot kicks.
Grinch’s Big Saves
As often happens in a match, the visiting team will come out and press in order to get the first goal. Too often, Orlando City has given up the first goal at home. In the 13th minute of play, Maxime Chanot got his head on a corner cross that looked certain to give NYCFC the lead. Adam Grinwis was having none of it, getting a reaction save that completely changed the tenor of the match. The Grinch did it again in the 112th minute on a long distance shot. And again in the 119th minute, on a free kick. There were no bigger saves than the two that he made in the spot kick shootout to lead the Lions to the semifinals.
That’s what I saw. Let me know if you agree or disagree with those points? Was there something I’ve forgotten? Go Lions!