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Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Improbably Advance on Penalties

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Things looked dire when Pedro Gallese got a second yellow during spot kicks but Rodrigo Schlegel’s save (really!) and Benji Michel’s goal see Orlando through to Round 2.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Only a madman would try to sort through what just happened in a first-round MLS playoff match between Orlando City and New York City FC at Exploria Stadium. So here goes...

The Lions advanced to the second round after an improbable shootout victory after a 1-1 draw against the Pigeons, which included the following:

  • Ruan was sent off in the 87th minute.
  • Tesho Akindele missed a sitter in the 10th minute of stoppage time that would have seen Orlando City win, 2-1.
  • Maxi Moralez hit the crossbar with the first shot of the penalty shootout.
  • Starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was sent off with a second yellow card after making a save in penalty kicks that appeared to win the game. Video review showed he came off his line a little early.
  • Orlando City was allowed to sub on goalkeeper Brian Rowe, who was then sent back to the bench after a lengthy delay, then brought back on, then sent back off, because there were no subs allowed during spot kicks.
  • Center back Rodrigo Schlegel replaced Gallese in goal and allowed Valentin Castellanos to tie the shootout at 4-4 with one Orlando shooter remaining.
  • Nani, the fifth OCSC shooter, had his penalty saved by Sean Johnson to force sudden death penalties.
  • Schlegel saved a shot by Gudmundur Thórarinsson, knocking it off the left post.
  • Benji Michel made the ensuing penalty to send Orlando through to the second round of the MLS playoffs.

The game was utter madness. A movie about it would be seen as too unbelievable. And yet, somehow Orlando City survived all of the insanity to advance past its fellow 2015 expansion side into the second round of the MLS playoffs.

Nani made an early penalty and New York City FC nearly immediately canceled it out with a Maxime Chanot set piece goal off a corner and then neither team could find the net for 122 minutes of normal, stoppage, and extra time.

“I think we need more time to calm down and reflect [on] what happened tonight,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The analysis of the game may wait for tomorrow when we can analyze the soccer side. What just happened at the end, I never saw it before. And this is the beauty of this game...but today the ball bounced our way.

“We are proud to win and beat one of the best teams in Major League Soccer with 10 men on the field,”

“I think we deserve it, after a difficult game with a lot of emotional moments during the game.” Nani said. “I think our team did great. We wanted to win from the first minute. We worked so hard during this week to prepare ourselves to be able to perform well. And our fans were amazing.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Uri Rosell returned to the starting XI after missing 13 games with an undisclosed injury. Joining him in the midfield were Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra, and Chris Mueller, with Nani and Daryl Dike leading the attacking line.

The Lions started brightly, with some early passing sequences into the attacking third. Those paid off when a penalty was awarded four minutes into the match. Mueller sent in a cross for Nani at the back post and the captain’s header deflected off the outstretched arm of Anton Tinnerholm for an obvious handball. Nani stepped up coolly and had an agonizingly slow run-up before sending Johnson the wrong way and scoring inside the right post to make it 1-0 just five minutes in.

New York City answered immediately. Off the ensuing restart, the Pigeons worked the ball into the box and forced Gallese to make a big stop but the ball skipped out for a corner. Chanot scored on the set piece, freeing himself with a two-handed push on Urso while Jesus Medina’s delivery was in flight, and sending his header in to make it 1-1 in the eighth minute.

Urso’s complaints went unheeded and it was simply the way the game was called all day. Allen Chapman was consistently inconsistent and you never knew what was or wasn’t going to be called.

Dike tried to restore the lead in the 15th minute with some nice moves to free himself in the box before sending a spinning shot toward the near post. Johnson was there to scoop it up and the rookie may have been better served trying the far side, where there was more traffic, but also no goalkeeper.

New York City FC then started to get most of the good chances for the rest of the half. A deflected cross fell perfectly for an onrushing Medina, who fired but had his shot well saved by Gallese in the 24th minute. Two minutes later, El Pulpo denied Keaton Parks after a collision with no whistle set up a NYCFC transition opportunity.

The game got sloppy on both sides for about the next 15 minutes. NYCFC struggled to connect down the wings while Orlando City wasted numerous good forays into the attacking third by dribbling straight into the visitors’ traps while ignoring runners to either side.

The Pigeons nearly took the lead in the 43rd minute but Gallese made two incredible saves to keep the game at 1-1. Castellanos fired a rocket from the top of the area that Gallese stopped but the Peruvian couldn’t control the rebound. Parks came in from the right to tuck it home and Gallese stuck up one of his eight arms at the last second to deny the shot.

Orlando’s last good look came at the beginning of first-half stoppage time when Dike set up Mueller at the top of the area. Unfortunately, Mueller got way under his shot and skied it into the roof over the north end of the stadium.

New York City dominated in chance creation in the first half, out-shooting the Lions 11-6 (5-2 on target), and winning more corners (6-2). Orlando held more possession (53%-47%) and passed better (83%-75%) or the game could have gotten away from the Lions quickly.

The Lions tried to come out of the locker room quickly, with Rosell firing over the bar two minutes after the restart and Dike getting a shot blocked at the top of the area in the 50th minute. Four minutes later, Ruan toe poked the ball through the box, perhaps expecting Urso to continue his run, but the Bear had checked up and it was an easy collection for Johnson.

Orlando started to make sloppy passes that resulted in turnovers and it nearly was costly in the 64th minute when Gallese bailed out his teammates with a save on a rocket by Medina.

Nani nearly scored in the 71st minute with a deflected shot that was dipping under the bar when Johnson pushed it up and over at the last second.

Ruan was sent off as full time approached. Already on a yellow card for running over Anton Tinnerholm 10 minutes earlier, Ruan was taken down by Gary Mackay-Steven on the sideline. Mackay-Steven then pushed both of his hands into the Brazilian’s abdomen and used Ruan to push himself up off the ground. Ruan took exception to the dirty play by kicking out at Mackay-Steven. Chapman showed a yellow to the NYCFC winger and a red to Ruan. The kick was an obvious and automatic straight red, so the earlier yellow was irrelevant.

Due to numerous stoppages for injuries and slow restarts after fouls, there were 10 minutes of stoppage time added to the end. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi fired wide in the seventh minute of stoppage time but it was Orlando with the best look of injury time. Nani was sent down the left and sent in a deflected cross to Akindele at the back post. The entire net was available with Johnson stuck at his post but the Canadian hit his shot over the bar with just a few seconds remaining in stoppage time and the game went to extra time.

New York City led in shots (20-13), shots on goal (6-3), corners (9-3) and possession (50.9%-49.1%) while Orlando was slightly more accurate in passing (80%-78%).

Tajouri-Shradi had a couple of chances early in extra time, having a shot deflect into the outside netting and then firing wide of the far post from the right side in the opening minutes of the first extra period. Castellanos blasted a volley over the bar in the 99th minute.

Orlando got the last decent chance of the first half of extra time when Akindele got the ball wide on the left side and tried to pick out Urso between two defenders, but the midfielder couldn’t get a clean touch on the ball in traffic.

In the second half of extra time the Lions generated a good chance when second-half sub Kamal Miller dribbled down the left, passed to Nani, then continued his run. The captain gave him the ball back and the defender brought it down with his back to goal. Miller turned and fired a shot just wide of the far post in the 107th minute.

That was the last good look for either side in the second 15 minutes of extra time. The teams were largely spent and there were several stoppages for cramping on both sides.

After the extra 30 minutes with the extra man, New York City dominated the stat sheet leading in shots (26-16), shots on goal (7-3), corners (11-3), passing accuracy (82%-80%), and possession (55.7%-44.3%). But the game was still tied.

All that was left at that point was spot kicks. Moralez banged the first one off the crossbar to hand Orlando City the advantage. From there, four straight Lions scored — Akindele, Andres Perea, Carlos, and Urso. Meanwhile, Medina, former Lion Tony Rocha, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored for NYCFC. When Gallese stopped Castellanos with a diving save, the team celebrated but the play was reviewed for El Pulpo coming off his line early.

A lengthy delay ensued, in which Gallese was booked for a second time in the game, and backup goalkeeper Rowe came on, was sent off, came back on, and then was sent back to the sideline a second time. Schlegel came on.

Pareja said that in addition to Schlegel — who had played goalkeeper at the academy level — that Perea volunteered to go in goal. Gallese suggested to the coach that Schlegel get the nod and he did.

Castellanos buried his second chance to put the pressure on Orlando City.

Nani tried to go to the same side that he had earlier with a slow run-up, but this time Johnson got his hand to it and things looked dire for the Lions with a center back in goal and new life for New York City.

“I knew that was the important penalty,” Nani said. “But you know, it’s always harder to take the second penalty on the game. You need to take a side and you need to think and play with the goalkeeper’s mind, because you already took one penalty, so it looks more easy for the goalkeeper. I tried to delay the most I can to try to see if he [made] a move and beat him on one side. He did great. I went for the same side and the top of the goal but he did a great save.”

Nicolas Acevedo scored on the next penalty to put the pressure on Orlando City but Jansson buried the team’s next kick, which brought up Thórarinsson. Schlegel got his hand on the Icelandic defender’s shot to send it off the left post and the Lions celebrated again, but the match wasn’t yet over. The officials cleared the field and Michel stepped up to take the next kick. He made no mistake with his chance and his goal pushed Orlando into the second round. The third celebration was the one that counted.

“I mean that’s that’s football,” Schlegel said through an interpreter after the match. “One minute you think that you’ve won and the next you don’t. What matters is the end result.”

“Well deserved,” Pareja said of the penalty kick shootout win. “The boys showed today the heart of this franchise. They showed all that intensity and sacrifice after we lost Ruan.

“What happened today, that will keep in my memory forever.”

The Lions have been incredible in shootouts — or incredibly lucky, depending on your point of view. Orlando City is now 5-0 in penalty shootouts in the MLS era and 2-0 against New York City FC. The Lions won via shootout in U.S. Open Cup action in 2015 at Charleston, in 2018 at D.C. United, and last season at home against NYCFC. Orlando knocked LAFC out of the MLS is Back Tournament on penalties July 31.

The upshot of all the insanity is that Orlando City is through to the second round and now must wait for an opponent.


The Lions will next play in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which start Nov. 29, against an opponent to be determined.