It would be impossible to describe Orlando City’s first ever MLS playoff match to someone and have them believe you. There are few scenarios less probable than a team losing its goalkeeper in a penalty kick shootout and then winning it with an outfield player making a save as the substitute goalkeeper.
But that’s what happened yesterday after Orlando City and New York City played to a 1-1 stalemate after 120 minutes. With right back Ruan already sent off near the end of normal time, the Lions held on through 10 minutes of stoppage time — nearly winning it at the death — and 30 minutes of extra time before going to spot kicks.
Exploria Stadium thought the Lions had won when Pedro Gallese made a diving save on Valentine Castellanos, but a review showed the Orlando keeper had come off his line a fraction early and he was given a yellow card — his second of the match. That means he was sent off and center back Rodrigo Schlegel volunteered to take his place.
Schlegel didn’t look too sure of himself in allowing Castellanos to equalize the penalty shootout at 4-4 but the Lions had Nani coming up to finish things off. Only...he didn’t. Nani’s shot was stopped by Sean Johnson and the shootout went to sudden death. Each team scored in the sixth round before Schlegel came up big against Gudmundur Thórarinsson, stopping the Icelandic defender’s shot. Benji Michel ended things by slamming home the ensuing OCSC penalty, giving the Lions a 6-5 shootout win — the team’s second knockout victory via shootout against the Pigeons in the last two seasons. But it is Schlegel who became a club legend.
Orlando City’s season continues as a result, while NYCFC is out of the playoffs. Oscar Pareja’s side will have to wait to find out who the next opponent will be. Whatever happens from this point on, it’s doubtful that Lions fans will see a stranger, more unbelievable finish to a match — even in a year like 2020.
We hope you enjoy these images from a match we’ll never forget at Exploria Stadium.